When she was in the eighth grade, Alexandra Carley Bennett was working on an assignment for science class and noticed the relationships between the velocity, position and acceleration equations.
“This was way before I had a calculus class, so it wasn’t very sophisticated, but it really excited me,” she said. “Figuring out the connection was immensely satisfying and it blew my mind a little. This was the beginning of my awareness that there might be a grand scheme of connections between all measurable and predictable things in the universe that someone like me could calculate and quantify. Going forward, it got harder, of course, but I enjoyed the challenge.”
Her high school and college physics teachers – Mr. Nelson, Dr. Roig, and Dr. Awschalom – inspired her.
“Aside from being brilliant, they were engaging and approachable, quick to find new approaches to introduce an idea, enthusiastic about their subjects, and genuinely cared about their students,” she said.
Bennett earned her Ph.D. in Experimental High Energy Physics at the University of California, Davis. When she wasn’t teaching physics courses, she jumped between UCD, Fermilab and CERN developing analysis tools and working on data quality management for the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), one of the detectors along the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland. For her thesis, she completed an analysis of one particular type of particle interaction and decay, and set new limits on the likelihood of dark matter interactions occurring at the LHC.
She then worked as a physics lecturer at California Polytechnic State University (CalPoly) in San Luis Obispo before coming to College of DuPage.
“Physics is fascinating. I enjoy learning new things and learning how to attack new problems, and helping other people to learn and build those same skills is extremely rewarding for me,” she said. “In an ideal world, my students would leave my classes with more knowledge about physics and a more keenly honed analytical eye, along with a greater willingness to ask questions and approach difficult new problems.”