2016 UA High School Physics Contest Career Panel

The 40th Annual University of Alabama High School Physics Contest will be held on Friday, January 29, 2016 at the Ferguson Center on the campus of the University of Alabama. This event is open to all high schools and usually attracts schools from surrounding states as well as many from Alabama.

This year we will be holding a career panel to advise high school students about their options if they choose to pursue a Physics degree. The panel will be held from 1:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. in the Ferguson Ballroom.


Our panelists this year include:

Dr. Patrick LeClair is a condensed matter physicists. His research focuses on electrical transport in novel magnetic materials (“spin electronics”), superconductivity, and electron tunneling phenomena. Dr. LeClair is currently building up a shared laboratory for electrical, magnetic, and optical characterization of novel materials and devices down to ultra-low temperatures (<400mK) and high magnetic fields (>7T).

Dr. LeClair received his PhD in physics (cum laude) from the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands in 2002. From 2002-2005, he was a post-doctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Francis Bitter Magnet Laboratory. He joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Alabama in 2005.

Dr. Claudia Mewes is a theoretical physicist working in the area of spintronics and quantum computing. She focusing on materials design, optimization, analysis, and modeling fo magnetic random-access memories (STT-MRAM) and non-volatile (NV) spin logic.

Dr. Mewes received her PhD from the University of Kaiserslautern in Germany in 2004. Dr. Mewes was a postdoctoral researcher from 2005-2006 at Ohio State University and at the University of Alabama since 2006. In 2009, she became an adjunct professor of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. In 2010, Dr. Mewes joined the faculty in the UA Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Center for Materials for Information Technology (MINT).

Dr. Preethi Nair is an observational astronomer who investigates the formation and evolution of galaxies. She is interested in the different processes which can lead to star formation or the triggering of supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies.  Dr. Nair is particularly interested in data mining large surveys to explore how galaxies have evolved over time. She is currently involved in the SDSS IV MaNGA survey.

Dr. Nair received her doctoral degree from the University of Toronto in 2009. She joined the faculty of The University of Alabama in January 2014.

Dr. Dawn Williams  is an astroparticle physicist who uses measurements of neutrinos, cosmic rays and gamma rays from outside the solar system to explore the high energy Universe. Dr. Williams group is developing techniques to identify tau neutrinos detected with the IceCube experiment, the largest neutrino detector on Earth, located at the geographic South Pole, deep in the Antarctic icecap. IceCube was built to detect the most energetic astrophysical neutrinos from objects such as accreting super massive black holes and gamma ray bursts.

Dr. Williams received her doctoral degree from UCLA in 2004. She joined the faculty of The University of Alabama in 2008.

Julie Covin  (Teacher/ASIM) is the Physics Specialist for Alabama Science in Motion (ASIM) at the University of Alabama. She works through the UA/UWA In-Service Teacher Education Center with 12 school systems in nine counties in West Central Alabama.  She provides training, equipment and support to teachers of high school physics. ”

Lucas Johnson is a PhD student working in the field of observational astrophysics.

Other Resources:

American Physical Society (APS): Find physics job listings, education and career advice (e.g.,Why Study Physics?), upcoming workshops and meetings, and career and job-related resources.

American Institute of Physics (AIP): Find employment data for physicists and astronomers, hiring trendscareer options (PDF), and other career resources.


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