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Being a Physics Research Assistant – My Snowball Didn’t Melt

Have you ever heard of the saying a snowball’s chance? I have pretty much been given that chance many times in my life. This is one instance where my snowball didn’t melt. In order to graduate with a physics degree from the University of North Alabama it is required that you have so many hours of directed research. As I was progressing through the lower level classes, one of the professors there who knew of my situation applied for a research grant in order to fund a ten-week summer research assistance ship and it was awarded.

Now, at the time, I had three teenagers and my dad living with me in my new house working a full-time second shift job around forty-eight hours a week. In order for me to do ten weeks of research meant quitting the regular job and losing my families health insurance. To make matter even worse, a college student can’t receive food stamps or unemployment if their job ends. So scared to death, I bit the bullet, quit my job, took a $700-a-month temporary job as a research assistant. At the same time, I started back my clowning business, tutoring math and physics, and we had four children we babysat. That research was an ongoing project of one of my professors, Dr. T. We made good progress that summer and continued it through the fall. Part of the grade was to present a talk at the end of every semester about the research to the department.

Dr. T is a motivator and a great teacher. He believed in me. He wanted me to present my research at the Alabama Academy of Science and was instrumental in helping me get all of it together. During the Christmas break, I got an update from the Society of Physics Students about submitting papers for the upcoming April meeting of the American Physical Society (APS). I distinctly remember saying to myself that I had not a snowball’s chance but why not, I had nothing to lose. It is the same thing I said to Dr. T. Why not send this on up to the APS? We have virtually no chance but it’s already done so we have nothing to lose. Well my snowball didn’t melt. Much to my shock and everyone’s delight, I was not only invited to come and present my research at the APS, the Society of Physics students gave me a small grant to help.

Never say never; you don’t know until you try. Tomorrow will be how a pink-haired, big-boobed, Alabamian made an impression on 1500 other physicists. It was without a doubt a blast for me.

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