Kate Holwick is a senior at JMU completing a BS degree in Physics as well as minors in both Math and Astronomy. She is from Virginia Beach, VA and graduated from Frank W. Cox High School in 2016. She is currently doing research with Dr. Scully in high energy astrophysics and hopes to find a career in the field of cosmology or theoretical physics. She was interviewed by Piper Smith, another JMU senior physics major.
PS: What motivated you to become a physics major at JMU?
KH: I always knew that I would pursue a career in STEM but I first knew that I wanted to do something with physics when my sister mentioned that she thought she wanted to study astronomy. I thought that the idea sounded very interesting and soon I signed up to take a physics class in high school. I realized then that I liked physics so much more than biology and chemistry, because it could help explain a much larger and more fundamental range of the universe than biology or chemistry could do. I was specifically motivated to study physics at JMU, because of how much the department prioritized undergraduate research, which would give me an edge when applying to graduate schools.
PS: What are some of your favorite classes you’ve taken thus far at JMU?
KH: One of my favorite physics classes that I’ve taken as a undergraduate is ASTR221: General Astronomy II- Star Systems, the Interstellar Medium, and Cosmology. This class was a big contributor to me still pursuing a career that deals with space. Before taking this class I questioned studying space, because I was bored of stars and black holes, and up to that point that seemed to be the majority of what astronomers or other related people studied. This class introduced me to more fundamental things such as the early universe, the structure of the universe, and Grand Unified Theories (or GUTs), which intrigued me much more than stars and planets.
Another one of the classes that I’ve enjoyed most at JMU is PHIL 311: Metaphysics. This course covered topics like universals and particulars, the nature of time, and properties. This course was fascinating because it discussed some scientific topics and challenges, but tackled them from not only a scientific standpoint, but also from a logical standpoint.
PS: What are you most proud of?
KH: I am very proud of still being a physics major. There have been a lot of challenging classes that I didn’t think that I could pass and a lot that weren’t my favorite, so I am impressed that I wasn’t discouraged from continuing the major. I am also proud that I am continuing to take more math classes than needed for my degree, such as MATH 245 or MATH 341, simply because I want to be better at math and taking them will obviously help me with my career in physics.
PS: What about research most excites you?
KH: In general, one of the most exciting things about conducting research is getting to tackle a big problem over the course of a few months. The satisfaction of getting some information about the answer to your question is worth it. Another one of the most exciting, cool things pertaining to research is that depending on what is discovered, physics as we know it can completely change.