Opportunities to Explore STEM Outside the Classroom

August 2nd, 2020 - 5:18pm

Alexandra EvansIn Love with the Sky

Alexandra Evans’ future in STEM perhaps began with one of her earliest memories. “My family took us out into the backyard to watch a meteor shower,” she recalls. “It was the first time I had ever felt so captivated; I fell in love with the sky.”

Evans is an extraordinary COM student who majors in Physics and Astronomy.

“When they asked us in kindergarten what we wanted to be, I always said astronaut. When I was 8, I got my first telescope,” she said.

As she grew older and explored other interests, Evans discovered a love for math and physics. “There were times when I thought about doing something else, maybe English or philosophy. But I realized that physics and astronomy are the only subjects I would actually regret not studying.”

When she was a freshman in high school, Alexandra’s siblings transferred to colleges in Europe. This broadened her perspective and when she began to search for the best universities for physics, she did not limit herself to North American universities. She searched “best universities for physics,” and found many in Germany and Switzerland. She knew that her best first step was to enroll at College of Marin. “COM has some really amazing STEM classes, and the course load I take still gives me enough time to focus on learning German,” she said.

At COM, her favorite physics professor is Dr. Cucchiara. “He has given me so many opportunities to explore physics outside of the classroom,” she said. Thanks to him, Evans got to work on independent research on gamma-ray bursts last semester. “I learned about their emission mechanisms and how to analyze their luminosity from telescope imaging,” she explained.

It was Dr. Cucchiara who first told her about the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP), along with helping her explore opportunities for internship programs and universities. “One of the reasons I have felt so assured about my future, is because he gave me the support to reach out and take initiative in my career.”

At CUWiP, Evans experienced whole new worlds. “I never knew what it was like to geek out with girls my age about blackholes and quasars,” said Evans. “At the conference, we were given the freedom to explore our choice in seminars from ones that gave us a guide for being a woman in physics, to pure fun presentations on quasars and galaxies.”

“Being able to explore these seminars with some pretty amazing people made me so excited for my future,” she said. “I really can’t wait to be in a career with such a kind and open community!”

After her year at COM, Evans plans to move to Germany to continue her education at the University of Heidelberg, which has a language learning program that teaches students German in the context of STEM. She later hopes to earn a doctoral degree in Cosmology. As for her career? “The dream would really be to work either at the European Space Agency or at an institute for theoretical physics.”

To this day, she hasn’t gotten over her love of the sky.

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