Student Spotlight: Alyssa Bowes

Alyssa Bowes

Alyssa Bowes
Major: Physics

Alyssa Bowes never took physics in high school.

As a first semester math major at a four-year college, she enrolled in a physics class and discovered she wanted to learn more. Unfortunately, the school didn’t offer physics as a major and her options were limited. So she transferred to College of DuPage.

The school was already familiar to Bowes, who lives nearby and took classes at COD for high school.

“Once I came here, my biggest influence was Physics Professor Tom Carter,” she said. “He really helped me move forward.”

Carter encouraged her to attend the Conference on Undergraduate Women in Physics held at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign. Bowes was one of only two community college students among the more than 170 attendees at the event, which included a career panel, a graduate student panel and an undergraduate research panel. Bowes was impressed by the stories she heard at the conference.

“It never occurred to me that it’s different being a woman in this field,” she said. “Listening to the women on the various panels made me feel more confident. The other thing I took away from the conference is that it doesn’t matter if you didn’t take physics in high school or if you are studying at a community college. The conference really helped me erase any self-doubt.”

Bowes also served as vice president of COD’s Engineering Club. She then transferred to the Illinois Institute of Technology, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Physics. While there, she completed an internship at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory studying the characteristics of germanium semiconductor diode detectors for a neutrino-less double-beta decay project called the MAJORANA Experiment.

She also was selected to work as a research assistant at IIT in the Physics department as part of the PROSpect Experiment. She designed and constructed a custom-built system used for reflectance studies. This system is now capable of making both specular and diffuse reflectance measurements of a sample in air deployed in a variety of liquids. The procedures and systems used for these studies can be used to make reflectance measurements for producing improved optical models for existing and future scintillator detector experiments. A paper is being published on the PROSpect research group, on which Bowes will be an author.

Bowes is taking a break from school but plans to return for a Ph.D. She is now working as a research and development engineer for a company in Southern California called VIP (Vibration, Impact, and Pressure) Sensors, which develops fiber optic sensors and arrays for different companies and government agencies. 

“At the moment, most of our group focus is toward developing underwater sensor prototypes for the Department of Defense,” she said. “The work has been interesting and challenging so far and relies a surprisingly large amount on my physics background. The fact that I work in R&D is particularly exciting because I can be creative, and I feel like my personal knowledge, experience, and contributions will help the company move forward and hopefully prosper.”

More about the Physics program