“The things that make me different are the things that make me me.” – Piglet
I’m a born and bred Pittsburgher, from a big and wonderful family. I grew up in Forward Township, where I annoyed the heck out of my older sisters and was driven thoroughly insane by my little brother. My parents and grandparents are huge sources of inspiration for me, and I’m thankful for the work-ethic, love of learning, and phenomenal soft skills I’ve inherited from them. My aunts, uncles, and many cousins complete the loving community from which I have grown and learned to thrive. I am truly privilged to have had so many people in my corner.
I grew up playing softball [badly], watching all the black and gold sports my city has to offer, playing video games, reading everything I could find, and watching all the Disney movies. (You might be able to tell that I still love Disney moves [hence all the quotes]. My current favorites are Treasure Planet, Big Hero 6, and Lilo & Stitch).
My academic experience has been riddled with phenomenal educators. I attended the Elizabeth Forward School District, and though it is not wealthy, I was never without opportunity to grow. There are several habits I have to this day that come directly from my algebra, calculus, and physics courses. The quick-writing skills we honed in high school english have also served me well. I am a huge band geek, and I play the saxophone and mallet percussion. I hadn’t realized how well being in marching band prepared me to lead organizational efforts in my career at the time, but they sure come in handy!
After graduating high school, I attended Washington & Jefferson College, and found a sense of academic kinship that I hadn’t realized I’d been missing. Perhaps the biggest influence on my adult life has been Mike McCracken, the chair of W&J’s physics program. Under his guidance, I’ve learned to be unapologetically myself, to serve as a mentor to others, and to let myself relax.
Now, I’m a 3rd year graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University, and I couldn’t be happier with my choice of graduate program. The department is welcoming, there is extensive opportunity to get involved or support to start activities that don’t already exist, and the breadth of research is fantastic for our smaller department. I think the best part of my choice has been the opportunity to work with Diana Parno, though. Not only is she actively involved in research, outreach, and the community of the department, she makes substantial contributions to physics without sacrficing her work/life balance. As a mentor for balancing a career and a life in academic phyics, I could not have dreamed up a better or more supportive advisor.