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Hannah Smith

Extracurricular activities: Wake Forest Dance Company

Q: How did you decide to major in physics?
A: I have always had a curious mind and a strong desire for a deeper understanding of the laws of nature. The physics classes I took in high school and in my first year of college opened my eyes to the vast number of intriguing scientific questions there are and the numerous benefits to society that solutions to these problems can give.

Q: What are your post-graduation plans?
A: In the fall, I will begin graduate school at Princeton, with full funding, to pursue a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. I have been awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, which is a 3-year fellowship that provides a stipend of $34,000 annually and a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance.

Q: What has it been like to conduct research in a physics lab?
A: Having the ability to conduct research on diverse projects in several labs at different universities has broadened my knowledge about many areas of research. There are numerous summer research programs specifically designed for undergraduate students. The one I participated in was a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Universities all over the country prepare research projects for students and host students in a variety of STEM fields through NSF funding.

Q: What was your most interesting class and why?
A: The electronics class in the physics department, taught by Dr. Oana Jurchescu, was definitely my most interesting class. I asked to join her lab because of it.

Q: How have your mentors helped support your education?
A: My mentor, Professor Jurchescu, has inspired me with her own work and scholarship, and has encouraged me as I have worked on challenging projects and set demanding goals for myself. She has always been available to give me advice and help me put my best work forward.

Q: What other interests have been important to you at Wake Forest?
A: My involvement in dance has been very important. I have taken ballet classes with Brantly Shapiro and Chris Martin and performed in ballet pieces in all of the dance concerts held each semester. The classes and performances have given me a creative outlet and provided me with a needed balance to my academic life.

Q: In what one way have you grown the most from first-year student to soon-to-be graduate?
A: The biggest change for me was figuring out what I wanted to do after I graduated. When I came to Wake Forest, I was excited about all of the possibilities for classes and avenues for learning, but I did not have a specific major or career goal in mind. The classes I took over the first couple of years helped me hone in on my desired major of physics, along with my computer science and mathematics minors. After getting involved in research, I discovered my passion for it and decided that it was what I wanted to do.