Guest Blog: Justine Walker ’18

Summer Lovin’ – Falling in Love with Experimental Physics

I remember the first hour of my research experience very clearly. I had always been horrible at keeping a good lab notebook and now I had been given an extremely fancy lab notebook with my name in silver and “Lehman Research Group” engraved in bold letters on the cover. I was so intimidated by this book that when I opened it to take notes on our readings, I wrote as neatly and as tiny as I could. That only lasted for a page though, because as soon as Dr. Lehman came in she told me that it would be best with my handwriting to write big and with lots of space. She reminded us to write everything we thought – questions, ideas, anything relevant to the experiment – and not to limit our writing and ourselves. With this advice, my writings in my notebook became more spontaneous and I had more fun recording my thoughts. As time passed, I began to feel more and more comfortable writing my thoughts down and expressing my ideas. That notebook became a home to my work, so that as I watched the pages fill I became prouder of and more confident with my ideas.
This lab notebook is the embodiment of my experience this summer. I was so intimidated at the start – I was afraid to ask questions, speak my mind, and be anything but perfect. As the weeks flew by, I became more comfortable, started being more inquisitive, and learned that being imperfect is what makes me a good Physicist. Being willing to make mistakes is what leads to important questions and discoveries.


Not only have I grown as a Physicist, but I’ve also grown as a person. The group of Physics researchers was very small this summer (just two students and two professors!) so it felt like a very friendly environment. I learned how to better collaborate with colleagues and how to be a more open-minded world citizen.
I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. The group this summer was amazing to work with. I never loved Physics more than I have now. Physics is not just an exciting area of study; it helps you feel like a part of something bigger than yourself.

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