I grew up in Maryland (for the most part) and always had an interest in the sciences. However, I was torn between school and my love of dance — namely ballet — and found no relation between the two until my junior year of high school. In my junior year I was listening to my teacher explain the physics of baseball and realized that dance was steeped in the laws of physics. The next two years left me studying and researching how the laws of physics came to life in the movement of a dancer. I worked with Dr. Ken Laws of Dickinson College, where I found an ideal physics program for myself: hands-on lab-based physics.

After high school my physics studies, and all my studies for that matter, were put on hold when I was offered a trainee position with the Milwaukee Ballet. I spent a year with the company, but constantly found myself picking up books, magazines and online journal articles on physics. When that year came to an end, I was happy for the experience I had had, but looking forward to getting back to my studies.

Dickinson's physics department provided me with many opportunities to expand my knowledge, not just in the classroom but outside it in the form of Colloquia, TA positions and working to set up the intro physics labs. The summer after my sophomore year I spent working with one of my professors, Lars Q English, and two theoretical physicists (Jesus Cuevas and Panos Kevrekidis). We ended up publishing our results in PRL.

The spring semester of my junior year served as another physics hiatus as I moved to Rome, Italy and studied at the American University in Rome while spending my weekends traveling around The Netherlands, France, Spain, Greece, Egypt and, of course, Italy.

My goal for my physics degree has always been to teach at the high school level, so researching in the LTC is a great next step... especially considering my minimal prior optics experience. And that brings us to today, and who knows what I'll be doing tomorrow?

Mara Anderson
Summer 2009
Laser Teaching Center