Azure Hansen

I grew up in Marion, a small town east of Rochester near Lake Ontario, in a dome on a hill surrounded by forests, swamps, apple orchards, corn fields and dairy farms. My name means "sky blue" (in English) and it is about 500 nm.

My father was a chemist at Kodak, so it wasn't strange to me that I knew the states of matter before I could read. One of the first math-related ephiphanies I had came from him calculating how many quarters I had saved up by weighing one and then the total. My sister and I enjoyed planetariums, aquariums, science museums and zoos. I loved petting stingrays at SeaWorld, the van de Graaf at the Toronto Science Center, and the topology exhibit at the Baltimore Science Center. My favorite toys were by far Legos and Lionel trains, but most of my childhood was spent outdoors in the woods and inventing games with my sister. I had a mineral collection and a bug collection (all my bugs were found dead - never killed!). I always wanted a telescope, but never had one until I was 19.

I got strep throat quite often when I was little, and was on the verge of having my tonsils removed. I enjoyed staying home sick because I would often watch Carl Sagan's Cosmos. It amazed me that the Greeks measured the diameter of the earth by looking at shadows in wells! Cosmos also gave me a new respect for books, as the burning of the libraries at Alexandria caused so much precious information to be lost. It is a scary thought (reinforced by Farenheight 451).

Luckily my parents loved sci-fi. Watching Star Trek as a child provoked my curiosity about physics while teaching me about wormholes, time travel, alternate universes, black holes, the Big Bang, star classification and more. I also learned fun words like "anomaly" and "tachyon." The TNG episodes "Cause and Effect" and "All Good Things", and the movie "The Voyage Home" were most perhaps most memerable. (I of course was in love with Wesley Crusher, played by Wil Wheaton, the genius science-loving kid who hung out with Data all day! Spock was my other idol.) The Back to the Future series further dveloped my fascination with time paradoxes, which would later influence my reading choices.

My elementary school science fair projects were titled "How Lenses Work," "Coral," and "Glowing Stars." The first of these was in fourth grade and was inspired by reflections in a spoon. I concluded that since water can bend light, it can be used as a lens. Very cute. My coral project was a result of our family's trip to Hawaii. I made a model of the organs in each polyp out of a vitamin jar, which my mother treasures. The glow-in-the-dark stars project was in sixth grade, and was of course inspired by the stickers all over my wall and ceiling. I learned that electrons can be excited to higher energies by absorbing a photon, and release the photon when they return to the lower state. My experiment was to expose glow-in-the-dark stars to different types of light in the electromagnetic spectrum and time how long they glowed after the source was removed. I tried radio, microwave, IR (from my grandmother's knee-soothing lamp), incanescent, flourescent and UV, and "discovered" that energy is quantized. These projects, coupled with PBS shows and reading random entries in the encyclopedia, taught me that light is both a particle and a wave. I started thinking about the world as oscillating between an ocean and a desert, with little EM waves or little grainy photons bouncing around everywhere.

I independently discovered electricity when I was little by petting my cats at night near my flourescent lamp. I also discovered that if I ground myself to my cat, I won't shock his ears when I pet him. Juice appreciated this.

I remember when a "new phase of matter" was created in 1995.

My sister and I went to Camp Quest in 1997 and 1998. There, I fell in love with rock climbing, flew a propeller plane, dug fossils, learned about famous freethinkers, bottle-fed a fawn, canoed down a Mississippi River tributary, went horseback riding, played chess, learned caligraphy...and for the first time met other non-religious kids.

My eigth grade science teacher was Mr. Pfeiffer, who would later be my cross country coach and high school physics teacher. Pfeiff was fresh out of college and full of engaging demonstrations and energy. For his class I did a project on star evolution. As part of my research, I read "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking. It was then, at age 12, that I decided to be an astrophysicist. I started reading books like "Schrodinger's Kittens," "The Elegant Universe," "How to Make a Time Machine."

In high school I took all the science courses that I could, including anatomy & physiology, astronomy, C++ and meteorology. My anatomy & physiology teacher tried to convince me to be a brain surgeon. My astronomy teacher Mr. Thomas was wonderful, and enjoyed conversations about sector (0,0,1) and my blue hair.

Regents physics was a joy, as Mr. Pfeiffer taught me physics that was well beyond the scope of the class, partially by giving me audio CDs of the Feynman Lectures. After class we discussed current topics in physics and studied for the AP exam. I hold the record in my high school for the most AP science exams ever taken (one). The most amazing demonstration involved polarizers. A rotating linear polarizer was placed between two orthogonal linear polarizers. Without the middle polarizer, no light can be transmitted, but with it - suprise! Another ephiphany was that projectile motion can be resolved into independant vertical and horizontal motion components.

I chose to attend Stony Brook University because of its excellent physics department, many opportunities for undergraduate research, and the WISE program. I started as a physics and astronomy major, but soon decided that I wanted to be a pure physicist.

Prof. Gene Sprouse was my professor for freshman honors physics. My favorite subject was EM. I literally had difficulty sleeping after Prof. Sprouse derived c=1/√(με) because it was so exciting. It's very satisfying that I can now derive that myself. He showed us the Nuclear Structure Lab and I fell in love with the resonators. I could picture the current flowing back and forth in the arms, pulling then pushing the beam.

I became envolved in the LTC through WISE 187. My experiences here have quite literally changed my life. It started by finding Grover Swartzlander's "Peering into Darkness" paper, and now I want to study quantum phase for at least the next decade. I have travled to FiO meetings, visited other labs, listened to amazing seminars, met many brilliant physicists, and have fallen in love with physics more than I ever thought possible. I am learning what it is to live and think as a physicist, and I cannot imagine a better fate.

After Stony Brook I plan to earn a Ph. D. in quantum optics (ultracold atoms), and I will ultimately do research at a national lab or institution. I also want to write books on physics to inspire the next generation of physicists, as others have inspired me.

In my free time, I love to travel, hike, ski, kayak, stargaze, run, rollerblade, bike, snowboard, read (mostly physics books), browse Wikipedia and science news sites, play my clarinet, garden, and spend time with my cats, friends and little sister. I am a vegetarian because I love and respect animals and the environment. My favorite movies include The Matrix, Star Trek IV, Amelie, Totoro, 12 Monkeys, the Star Wars classic trilogy, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (I've loved the books since I was eight). If I'm watching television, it's probably NOVA, Star Trek (my favorites are VOY, TNG, TOS, DS9, respectively), The Simpsons, Family Guy, or Seinfeld. My childhood favorite shows were Laurel & Hardy ("like two peas in a pod-d"), Rocky & Bullwinkle and Fraggle Rock. Two of my favorite books are Cat's Cradle by Vonnegut and 1984 by Orwell. I love classical music and instrumental soundtracks, but my favorite artist is Trent Reznor. I'm very Scandinavian and would love to learn Swedish or Danish (and Japanese).

I share my birthday with Leopold Kronecker.

Azure Hansen
February 2006
azure.hansen (a)
Laser Teaching Center