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Physics & Astronomy

Student Voices

  • Nycole Wenner 19

Nycole Wenner ’19


Cold Spring, Minnesota



Favorite spot on campus

“The planetarium, by far, is my favorite spot. I took a one credit class to learn how to use it and I have had access to it ever since. It’s quiet and we are allowed to give shows or even travel to different planets and distant galaxies. It’s in the beautiful David A. Straz, Jr. Center and it gives you a nice place to go and sit in the quiet under the stars after a stressful day of classes.”

As a dedicated physics student, Nycole Wenner has experienced many great opportunities through Carthage, including the chance to build a satellite, travel to conferences across the country, and work with members of NASA.

By participating in the various J-Term courses offered at Carthage, Nycole has been able to experience classes and departments outside of her major that she would not have been able to otherwise. “I would have to say my favorite class was my J-Term class called Winter, Walking, and Writing that I took my sophomore year.” Through this class, Nycole and her classmates were able to walk around Lake Michigan and Kenosha in January, writing about what they saw. “It was incredibly relaxing and there was little stress.”

On campus, Nycole has participated in Carthage’s CubeSat and SURE programs where she served as head mechanical engineer learning computer programs and other essential skills.

Nycole encourages future physics students to “try both the engineering aspect and the research aspect” of the major. “It’s a very challenging and interesting field, but I love it.”

Career goal

“I hope to go on to study astrophysics in graduate school and obtain a PhD in stellar astrophysics. After that, I want to study the stars.”

Favorite professor

“There are so many professors that have impacted my life, but I would have to say Professor Daniel Steiner has impacted me the most. He’s a professor in the Physics Department and is the most kind and relaxed person I have ever met. He encourages students to do their best and pushes them to think in ways they normally wouldn’t. I have spent a lot of time talking to him about graduate school and life after college, and he has helped me not freak out as much about going into the real world. He’s incredibly friendly to everyone and he doesn’t judge you. I’m really happy to have a professor who understands and remembers what it’s like to be an undergraduate.”

Favorite class

“This is difficult, but I would have to say my favorite class was my J-Term class called Winter, Walking, and Writing that I took my sophomore year. The class was a simple, we would go on walks outside in the middle of January then write about them. It may sound lame, but we would walk in silence as a class around Kenosha and the lake and just take in the world around us, not worrying about anything else. It was incredibly relaxing and there was little stress. I’m glad I had the chance to take that class because I normally wouldn’t take a class like that in my major.”

Toughest class

“Electricity and Magnetism has been the bane of my existence. It’s very difficult because it’s the class in which you truly understand how difficult the field is becoming, no puns intended. It has a lot of abstract concepts and strange mathematics in it, and I know I’m not the only one struggling. But that’s just the course in and of itself, this stuff is hard even for people with PhDs.”

Opportunities at Carthage

“I was a part of the CubeSat program for two years, starting my first month here at Carthage my freshman year. I was the head mechanical engineer for two and a half years. I learned a lot about myself and my capabilities, and I traveled to conferences in Oregon and Wisconsin. I learned how to use computer programs and many other things they don’t teach you in class. I was also able to spend two summers working on it on campus as a student in the SURE program, starting the summer after my freshman year.”

“The wonderful thing about Carthage is that you can always get involved and there’s always something for you to join. I’ve had a wonderful experience with the professors and the students, learning with them how to do paperwork for the government and how to build things to survive in space. I’ve also gone to a lot of cool aerospace things in Wisconsin and have worked with people at NASA. This was one of the greatest life experiences I’ve ever had, and I’m glad I decided to do it.”

Favorite moments at Carthage

“I have so many wonderful memories just walking along the lake with my friends. One of my favorite was the super blood moon my sophomore year. Everyone sat out on the beach and rocks to watch as the moon rose across Lake Michigan. Everyone was out, students, faculty, staff, the entire community, with lawn chairs, blankets, and the like. It was one of those special moments when you felt like you really belonged.”

Biggest surprise so far?

“I met the love of my life in my Western Heritage class my second semester here. He happened to sit down next to me and we got around to talking. I never thought I would meet someone so soon, or in a class, but stranger things have happened I guess. It was a very happy and lucky surprise.”

What would your 8-year-old self think of you now?

“She would wonder why we aren’t going to become a veterinarian. Little did 8-year-old me know that she also would have to put down cats. But I think when I explained it to her, she would be happy. I’ve always loved the stars and science, and this is something I’m very happy I am doing. It doesn’t feel like work most of the time.”

Advice for other students considering your major

“Physics is an amazing and difficult field of study. Engineering is not the only path for physics! You can do so much more and create so many things. You can learn to manipulate and interpret the world around you and it’s so much fun! I love studying the stars and why the universe is the way it is, and we have a planetarium here so that you can stargaze whenever you want. It’s a very challenging and interesting field, but I love it.”

“Try both the engineering aspect and the research aspect. We have the space science program that’s more for the engineering types. I discovered through building a satellite that engineering is not for me. Don’t choose this major if you don’t like it, because you will only grow to hate it from the challenge. It’s not easy, and if you think it’s easy in high school, well, that’s high school physics. That was easy. Physics is rewarding, but it’s not for everyone.”


Madeline Paakkonen ’21
  • Quick Facts

    • Carthage is named a Best Midwestern College by The Princeton Review (2020), a designation given to only 25 percent of four-year schools.

    • The Tower, Carthage’s newest residence hall, provides some of the best views on campus — if not in the Midwest! In addition to #carthageviews of the lake from seven stories up, residents enjoy suite-style living and two floors of shared campus spaces for gaming, cooking, group meetings, or quiet studying. Learn more about all housing options.

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    • More than 90% of Carthage alumni report that they have secured a job or are continuing their studies six months after graduation. Visit Career Services.

    • 91% of employers say critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills matter more than your major when it comes to career success. Learn more about how the liberal arts prepare you for a successful career.

    • Lots of schools wear the four-year label. Carthage stands behind it. More than 90% of Carthage graduates earn their degrees in four years. Learn more

    • Computer science students watch Prof. Mark Mahoney’s recorded lecturers in their free time, so he can nearby “when they do their real learning,” he says. He has company: Physics professor Brant Carlson’s quantum mechanics video playlist has been viewed more than 170,000 times. 

    • Oscars. Emmys. Tonys. Golden Globes. The playwrights we’ve brought in have them. Each year, the Carthage Theatre Department commissions an original script by a renowned playwright for its New Play Initiative. Carthage students then work with the writer to stage it. 

    • Carthage has ranked as a top Fulbright producer for four of the past five years. Read about Carthage Fulbright winners.

    • Things look new at Carthage because they are. Our science center, student union, athletic and recreation center, and numerous residence halls have all been constructed or newly renovated in the last 15 years.

    • Carthage offers majors, minors and concentrations in more than 50 areas of study, from archaeology to neuroscience, nursing to music theatre.

    • Our Summer Undergraduate Research Experience offers select students a research budget, one-on-one mentoring with a professor, and 10 weeks of analyzing, deciphering — and getting paid.

    • So the lake is kind of a focal point, but there’s a lot more to love about our campus — like the fact that our more than 80-acre campus is also an arboretum and wildlife sanctuary. Focused on keeping campus lush forever, we plant between 50 and 75 new trees every year from a variety of species.

    • Carthage was founded in 1847. That’s more than 170 years of leaders, makers, and go-getters going out and going forth. Read more about Carthage’s rich history.

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    • Come to Carthage; hear yourself think — think … think …
      Legend has it that Sesquicentennial Plaza holds a perfect echo. Just stand with both your feet on the “1847,” face Straz, and start talking. “You’re the only one who can hear you, but you’ll be crystal clear,” promises English and theatre alumna Mikaley Osley.

    • Our Great Lake provides Carthage students with some amazing views. Think classes on the beach, lake views from the lab, and sunrises from your dorm room. “I love waking up in the morning with the sun shining off the lake. Nothing compares to the view in the morning,” recalls biology and neuroscience major Ann O’Leary.

    • Carthage awards up to 35 Presidential Scholarships each year, which range from $20,000 up to full tuition. Learn more.

    • For a full decade, NASA has selected Carthage students to conduct research aboard its zero-gravity aircraft. Lately, the stakes have risen. A team of underclassmen is grinding to prepare a tiny but powerful Earth-imaging satellite for launch to the International Space Station. Learn more about the space sciences at Carthage

    • Carthage is the only college or university in the Midwest where every freshman takes a full-year sequence of foundational texts of the Western intellectual tradition. Learn about the Carthage core.

    • With a student-faculty ratio of 12:1, your professors will know who you are. They will also know who you want to be — and how to get you there. Meet our faculty.

    • There are more than 130 student organizations on campus, from Amnesty International to Fencing to Frisbee, Chem Club to Stand Up Comedy. See how easy it is to get involved.

    • True story: There are more than 27 art galleries, a dozen museums, and nine theatres within 25 miles of Carthage. Some highlights: The nationally recognized Racine Art Museum, the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Learn more about our location.

    • What’s better than one professor? Two professors. What’s better than two professors? Two professors from totally different fields teaching a single class. There’s debate. Discussion. Differing perspectives. This is where the magic happens. That’s why every student takes a Carthage Symposium.

    • You can’t hide here — not with only 17 other students in the classroom with you. That’s going to be rough some mornings. But later, when you’re able to argue your point of view thoughtfully, express your opinions succinctly, and meet challenges head-on, without fear … Yep, you’ll thank us.

    • Carthage is ranked No. 3 in the country for student participation in short-term study abroad. Every J-Term, hundreds of students travel all over the world on faculty-led study tours. Imagine a month in Sweden, Rome, Cuba, Senegal, India, Japan …