KelliAnn Anderson has always had an affinity for science. Her love of the universe and how it works can be traced back throughout her childhood.
“The topic of science really struck home whenever my dad would explore it with me,” KelliAnn recalled. “He’d teach me the constellations, he’d set up experiments for me in the kitchen, and whenever I rode in the car with him, the topic of how this works or why that does what it does would always come up somehow. He was a huge factor as I grew up, always giving me a reason to care for science.”
So when she was exploring college options, KelliAnn knew that she was looking for a strong and developed physics program — even if she wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to do yet. After a little research on the Carthage website, she was stunned at the opportunities that the Physics and Astronomy Department provides.
“Right on the front page, there was a picture of the Carthage Microgravity Team and an article outlining the details of how they got the amazing opportunity to run a real, meaningful experiment for NASA,” KelliAnn said. “It said how the team had been chosen for several years running and I was stunned, knowing the Physics Department must have been good if the students it produced were good enough for NASA.”
She made it a point to become involved in the Microgravity Program as soon as the opportunity arose, and participated in the program in 2011 and 2012.
“It’s been hard work, but it’s all completely worth it to me,” she said.
KelliAnn says that being part of the Carthage Microgravity Team could possibly be the best experience she has ever had. They were tasked to use experimental technology to build a zero-gravity fuel gauge.
“The kind of gauge you might have in your car doesn’t work in microgravity conditions, like in space,” KelliAnn explained. “Basically, our experiment consisted of a tank filled with some volume of water. By sending vibrations through one side of the tank, letting them travel through the tank (and subsequently the water that’s inside,) and then picking them back up on the other side, we could compare the frequency of the vibrations to measure any changes. The more water in the tank, the more the frequency would change, and by measuring this change we were able to calculate how much water was inside the tank.”
The team then traveled to Houston to run the experiment on NASA’s zero-gravity aircraft. “The results of the experiment were highly successful,” she concluded.
KelliAnn quickly realized the high caliber of her physics professors, she said. “I’ve had three different professors for my various physics classes so far, and each one of them has been enthusiastic. They absolutely love what they do, and they have the know-how and desire to pass that knowledge on,” she said. They strive to make physics fun and accessible to all of the students, whether freshmen or seniors, she continued. “I also really love how easy they make it to get involved in the physics-based activities on campus and even around the country.”
Her curiosity will keep KelliAnn exploring, even after Carthage. She plans to attend graduate school.
“Carthage is providing me an environment where I realize I could go on and do even greater things, and giving me the confidence and determination I need to do so,” she said. “It’d be a shame to stop.”
“Carthage is providing me an environment where I realize I could go on and do even greater things, and giving me the confidence and determination I need to do so.”
How have Carthage faculty had an impact on your life or Carthage career?
“This is a very hard question. I find Professor Jean Quashnock’s excitement for physics infectious, and he’s an excellent teacher. He knows just the right pace at which to teach, giving you enough time to understand the material, but also making sure it’s not too easy and you always have something to do. I can say the same thing of Professor Temple Burling, another instructor I had for a physics class. But at the same time, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a fantastic Spanish teacher as well, Professor Sperber. He teaches the language through several different media like reading, writing, speaking, and playing games in small groups. Those aren’t things I’m usually inclined to enjoy, but when learning a new language, they are very effective, and this professor somehow finds a way to make them fun. They’re all great teachers.”
“I’m inclined to say that my current Drawing class is my favorite, considering it’s so different from everything else I’m doing, and takes a load of pressure off my shoulders, but I have to reach way down deep and be perfectly honest. My current physics class, General Physics II, has been my favorite class so far. That’s mostly because of the teacher, Prof. Quashnock, and the fact that it focuses on electricity and magnetism, which I discovered last year I really, really enjoy.”
“I’m a member of the Carthage chapter of SPS, the Society of Physics Students, and have participated on the Microgravity Team.”
“As for my toughest class, I have to say that it’s a three-way tie between Fundamental Physics, which I took last year; Western Heritage (both semesters); and my current math class, Differential Equations.”
Favorite moments and memories at Carthage
“My favorite moments have to be all the time I spent working on the NASA experiment, making a gaggle of new friends in the process. I also deeply enjoyed the Safetysuit and The Script concert the school put on. But overall, my greatest moments have been when I was able to look at something I’d been struggling with for a while, feel something click, and say, ‘Aha!’ And the good news is, that’s something I’ll be able to keep doing even after my college days.”
Favorite spot on campus
“I’m partial to B2, a sort of ‘messy, science living room’ that resides in the basement of the David Straz Center. I spent countless hours there, once again working on the NASA experiment. It has an air of discovery, filled with science-y clutter, chalkboards full of equations that haven’t been erased for years, and a couch where you can catch a quick and well-deserved nap between classes.”
Biggest surprise so far
“The biggest surprise for me is how much this place has allowed me to accomplish in just one year. It’s really strange to think back to my high school days, since they seem so far behind me, and I’ve done so much already.”
Why should other students consider your major? What advice do you have for them?
“For anyone considering physics, I have this to say: Physics is hard, and it will kick your butt to infinity and beyond. You need the right stuff for it. I don’t really mean smarts, but curiosity, bravery, perseverance, creativity – and a scientific calculator never hurt anyone. We’re lucky enough to have a world-class physics program at Carthage, and I can think of no other place I’d rather start my journey than right here.”