Alissa Murray '14 did not intend to study physics when she decided to attend Goucher. In fact, even she thinks her choice to major in advanced studies physics seems really peculiar. During the first half of her senior year in high school, Murray thought she was going to go to art school. Throughout the course of that year, she started doing art less and less; then she thought she might study anthropology or biology at college.
"I realized I wanted to study science because I just feel like I have this fascination with science," she says. "There's so much to learn. There's so much that we don't know yet. I studied physics in high school, and I really enjoyed it; that's why I decided to continue with it."
And so she decided to take intro physics and Calculus I her first semester just in case she decided to move forward with these subjects at Goucher.
"I guess after I got over the initial terror of being in my first college physics class, the concepts that I already had studied for two years in high school were presented so clearly and elegantly," Murray says. "I just realized how much I was in awe of even the simplest concepts of physics. From there it seemed very natural for me to continue with it, and the longer that I stuck with it, the more I couldn't see myself doing anything else."
Now Murray says her favorite thing about Goucher is the Physics Department. Since her very first semester here, she has really appreciated the personalized attention she has received. She says she has been able to have access to talk to her professors for help and resources, and her modern physics class has just four people in it. "It's wonderful," she says. "I couldn't imagine studying physics at a huge university where I'm in a class with 200 people. Here at Goucher I haven't been in a class with more than 16 people."
Every semester has been really different for Murray, really challenging in distinctive ways. She says she felt as if she was unbalanced last semester with a schedule that was too heavy on math and physics and not enough other interests to pursue.
To maintain more of an academic equilibrium, Murray is also studying Spanish, as a minor. She had studied Spanish all throughout junior high and high school and likes that her Spanish classes are in sharp contrast to all of her physics and math classes.
She has been able to put her Spanish skills to good use - both at Goucher and in her international travels. On campus Murray is involved in the Language House and participates in the Spanish Table, where students and faculty eat dinner together and speak in Spanish. She says this has helped her to get much more confident in her Spanish-speaking skills.
This confidence and interest in speaking Spanish was also fueled by a backpacking trip Murray took last summer with her two brothers to eight countries in Europe, including Spain. She says she felt much more proficient in Spanish on that trip, and being in Madrid made her realize she does want to get much more fluent in the language.
Murray hopes for a potential nexus of physics and international experience in the form of an internship on a large, multinational science project, such as at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which is one of the world's largest and most respected centers for scientific research. In the future she is considering applying for a summer research position at the prestigious institute in Geneva, Switzerland.
"Not only would it be an opportunity to learn about the latest research in physics, it would be a chance to collaborate and learn with people who are studying the same thing from all over the world. That would be fabulous," Murray says.