Research at Hendrix

Emily Maher '99

Physics Major with a Minor in Mathematics

Associate Professor, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA). MCLA is in North Adams, MA.

Current projects

MCLA is a small liberal arts college and I am one of three physics professors that make up our department. I teach a range of courses, from courses for non-science majors to advanced physics courses for our majors. I also participate in an international experimental particle physics collaboration called MINERvA. The experiment is located at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia Illinois. The collaboration consists of roughly 100 physicists from 7 different countries. We are studying the fundamental properties of a particle called the neutrino and I write software that calibrates and analyzes our data. I work with undergraduate students from MCLA, providing them the same types of opportunities I had as a student at Hendrix.

Undergraduate Research

As an undergraduate student at Hendrix, I worked with Dr. Robert Dunn on detecting metallic ions in the plumes of rockets. We were working to design an early warning system that could be used on the space shuttle to detect metallic ions, which would indicate a problem. During my time at Hendrix I participated is many aspects of this research. I wrote software to analyze our data in a programming language called LabView and also helped build parts of the detector. I accompanied Dr. Dunn and the rest of the research group to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to test the detection systems by firing rockets and taking data using our detectors.

How Hendrix prepared me for success

My Hendrix experience was pivotal to my current role and my physics professors were phenomenal. They deeply cared about us and made themselves available for all of our questions, and helped me to develop a work ethic which has served me well throughout my career. Contributing to cutting edge physics research at Hendrix was inspiring and exciting. This was my first experience with programming, which is something I still use in my research. My faculty mentors and student peers helped me develop problem solving and troubleshooting skills that I still use in my research today. I entered the physics PhD program at the University of Minnesota after Hendrix and found that the training I received at Hendrix helped me succeed in my graduate courses. I was able to jump into research, instead of first having to understand what research was. I graduated from U of MN with my PhD in experimental physics in 2005.

Future plans

The MINERvA experiment will soon publish our results. These will include the world's most precise measurements of neutrino cross sections. I plan to continue bringing undergraduate students to Fermilab to experience research firsthand.

My advice

If you have the opportunity to do research, take advantage of it. The experience will help you regardless of what you do after Hendrix. Research teaches you, among other things, problem-solving skills, patience, and organization – all skills which are transferable to any profession.