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Margaret (Meg) FairbornMargaret Fairborn '25

Why did you decide to study physics?  

When I was looking at schools, I met with Dr. Kamesh Sankaran to ask him what majors might be best for someone who really loves math. Dr. K helped me realize that physics is a great way to apply math to the real world and offers a variety of exciting career options.

What classes have been your favorite so far, and why?  

Because Whitworth's faculty are all so kind and approachable, even courses I didn’t expect to like were fun… making this a tricky question. But I would have to say my favorites so far have been Near Space Lab (how great is it to design an ozone-detection experiment and launch a real weather balloon to the near space region?); Modern Physics; and all of my calculus classes. Aside from STEM-related classes, my First-Year Seminar class, Table Top Games, was amazing.

Tell us about a unique experience or project you’ve worked on for your major.  

For the past two summers, I have been blessed to participate in NASA-funded summer research projects at Whitworth with faculty and classmates from the physics and computer science departments. Last summer, we worked to improve the code of a genetics algorithm Whitworth students have been developing over the past few summers that models the trajectory of spaceflight missions (like NASA’s recent DART mission). The existence of opportunities like this at a small liberal arts university are a testimony to the superior faculty in Whitworth’s STEM fields. Also, I am a leading the Power Group of Whitworth’s CubeSat satellite building club, and I have enjoyed working with other students to design and build Whitworth’s first satellite!

What advice would you give to someone thinking about majoring in physics?  

Make sure you are passionate about math and problem-solving; and be prepared for a lot of homework. Physics can be difficult, but it is extremely fascinating and the mastery you can achieve makes it worthwhile to push through the difficult parts. It helps that the faculty are really supportive and accessible whenever you have questions. Don’t be shy about asking them for help! And be sure to take some breaks to socialize… even though it may sometimes feel like you could work non-stop on your physics problems. There are a lot of interesting clubs to join and fun activities (like the climbing wall, frisbee golf, swimming or even ice skating classes).

What’s your dream job?  

As a sophomore with plans to pursue a Ph.D., I am not certain what job I want to do yet. But, I am leaning toward working on space-related projects (like my summer research) with SpaceX or NASA. Alternatively, I can see myself working in clean energy or even coming back to teach at Whitworth. But, a math and physics background opens many doors: I have been offered opportunities with Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and some patent law firms, too. So, a lot will depend on my upper-division classes and what God has planned for me.

Who are three people who have made a difference for you at Whitworth?

The first faculty member I met, and the one who is responsible for me choosing Whitworth, was Dr. Sankaran (“Dr. K”) of the physics & engineering department. His passion for physics and enthusiasm for teaching, combined with his commitment to Christ, drew me to Whitworth as a place where I could seriously pursue STEM and grow in my Christian faith. He is a wonderful mentor, both spiritually and educationally. I have also benefited tremendously from working with Dr. John Larkin, my faculty advisor and physics professor. I appreciate his wry sense of humor and unflagging commitment to helping me strategize my courses, extracurricular activities and internships to leave time to enjoy Whitworth’s fun social activities. And I treasure my friendship with Dr. Anne Trefry, who is an amazing math teacher, as well as an inspiring Life Group leader. Whitworth’s faculty and staff are so friendly… It’s rare a week goes by when I don’t have coffee or a nice visit with one of my faculty friends or mentors. I honestly could list at least a dozen faculty and staff members who I cherish. And there are so many amazing people who work behind the scenes to make every day here great. Whitworth is just so nurturing. I am so happy I chose to study here!

Why did you choose to attend Whitworth?

My introduction to Whitworth was a bit unusual: I began as a dual enrollment high school junior taking math and science classes here. So, while this is my second year as a full-time student, it is my fourth year taking classes at Whitworth. I chose Whitworth because I immediately felt at home on campus. Even though I was a bit young when I started, I immediately made good friends and have always felt that the faculty and staff have my best interests at heart. And the campus is small enough to feel manageable and friendly; yet big enough to offer an array of interesting courses, activities, clubs and social events. And I really appreciate all the opportunities to explore my faith. After my dual enrollment experience, I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else.

Jonas HildebrandJonas Hildebrand '22

Why did you decide to study physics?

In high school I knew I wanted to do something with math, and my initial plan was to be an engineer, but once I took the intro physics classes I realized I liked the pure physics more than the application for engineering, so I made the switch to physics and am very glad that I did.

What are some of your favorite classes so far?

My favorite classes so far have been Math Methods II and Nuclear Physics. I like learning about challenging math and building up the foundation necessary for future classes and topics I will see. Nuclear Physics was fun because the concepts were all interesting and it sparked more of an interest in nuclear physics for me.

Tell us about a unique experience you've had or project you've worked on for your major.

For Jan Term 2020 I took a computational methods class, which was really fun but also very hard, and it gave me a good opportunity to work in groups and work on assignments in computational physics, which I became more interested in as a result. At the end of this class we all had to do final projects, and mine was creating a 2D Ising model in MATLAB, which basically models magnetic moments in a specific material.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about majoring in physics?

Get really comfortable with the math. When I first came to Whitworth, I wasn't as comfortable with algebra or the basics as I should be, and that can become a glaring weakness. The math is just as important as the conceptual stuff, and they go together for a reason.

What's your dream job?

My dream job isn't specific, but I want to do research. I'm leaning toward particle physics at the moment, but that can change with something like an internship or a class that I might take in the future.

Who has been an important connection for you at Whitworth, and why?

All of the physics professors here are all important connections for me, as they all are very supportive in conversations about future plans. They are open to answering questions and providing help during office hours related to classwork, internship applications and so on. Overall they are all very supportive of my physics education at Whitworth.

What's something that surprised you or might surprise other students about your major?

What surprised me about my major is how willing everyone is to work together. I thought it would be more studying, doing homework, and struggling on my own, but everyone is in the same boat; if there's something that one student in the class doesn't understand, there's at least one more person that doesn't understand it. Everyone is learning the content together, so everyone is on the same playing field most of the time.

Why did you choose to attend Whitworth?

I chose Whitworth because of the small class sizes and the community, as one of my older sisters went to Whitworth four years ago and I got to see a glimpse of how fun the community is across campus, within the dorms, and in certain majors. This has held true as the physics majors all know each other and work together on assignments and study together and everything. Because the major is small, the community between us physics majors is tight.


Cameron BrewerCameron Brewer '22

Why did you decide to study physics?

I originally entered Whitworth as an engineering major. I soon realized that I was enjoying myself much more in my pure physics classes. It's because of this that I decided to study physics.

What are some of your favorite classes so far?

My two favorite classes have been Modern Physics and Near Space Research Lab. I really enjoyed Modern Physics because it is an introduction to a lot of super interesting, higher-level physics concepts. Near Space was fun because the entire semester was spent designing a single experiment and you get a lot more independence and responsibility concerning how your experiment is planned and carried out.

Tell us about a unique experience you've had or project you've worked on for your major. 

A unique project I've worked on was in my Electric Circuit Analysis Lab. In this class, we applied our knowledge of how circuits work and how their components interact with one another. For the final project, we had to design and build our own circuit and I chose to build an audio amplifier to drive some old speakers I had at home.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about majoring in physics?

Be prepared for a lot of math. The upper division courses (namely Electricity & Magnetism) are quite math heavy.

Who has been an important connection for you at Whitworth, and why? 

The most important connection for me has definitely been Dr. K (Kamesh Sankaran). He is my advisor as well as teacher for a handful of classes. This constant exposure has led to a lot of great advice and guidance concerning my academics and career goals.

Learn more about Whitworth's Physics, B.A., B.S. program

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