Carla Stelsel, class of 2019
I am delighted to have a physics degree and am extremely pleased that it comes from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign! After graduation, I am delighted to say that I will be starting work with Accenture in Chicago in August as a Technology Analyst. This is an entry-level technology consulting position and is a job that I am absolutely thrilled about. I didn't know what consulting was until my junior year at the U of I, and the more I looked into it, the more I realized it was what I wanted to do. I loved that it took the rigorous problem solving and quantitative analysis that I had done in physics, paired it with a full utilization of my strongest soft skills, and suited my extremely outgoing and social personality.
I am grateful to all the teachers, staff, students, etc., that have helped me get to where I am today. As a physics major, I have absolutely loved being a part of the Society for Underrepresented Students (SUPS). It was such a rewarding experience and gave me such an opportunity to grow and learn more about diversity and inclusivity issues. The friends that I have made through SUPS, the Physics Van, and my classes have been some of my closest in college, and I'm so grateful to have met them. I also loved getting to attend an APS Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP), as it was a great opportunity to meet other women in physics and to learn how they navigated their professional lives.
The classes that I enjoyed the most were PHYS225 and PHYS486 as the material was my favorite: abstract and brain-bendy. I also really enjoyed several of my professors and their classes. PHYS298OWL with Gollin was a great learning experience and was much better for learning python than CS101. I loved getting to go to Gollin's house, too, for pizza parties and just enjoyed how friendly and approachable all my professors were.
Physics Colloquia were another highlight—it was a great opportunity for everyone from undergrads to professors to learn and talk together. I think the department overall has a great spirit of camaraderie and collaboration. I also really appreciated Physics Town Halls, which were a great opportunity for staff, faculty, and students to discuss issues that students are facing in the department. I think that this is invaluable and demonstrates how much the department values improving the student experience.
I have always loved learning, but never identified as a "STEM person” until college. I grew up in Gurnee, IL, and went to an extremely large high school with lots of AP classes, etc. The first time I had any real exposure to physics was my junior year of high school in my AP Physics B class and I LOVED it. It was the first class that I really enjoyed and that really challenged me and my conceptual understanding. I liked it so much I took AP Physics C: Mechanics the following year, immensely enjoying it once again. When I was looking to choose a major, I was interested in all sorts of things but ended up in physics for a few reasons. One, I felt like it was a subject that required all of my effort to succeed and I loved being challenged. Two, it's extremely versatile in terms of career direction. And it was the hardest thing I was interested in and honestly, I figured that it would always be easier to transfer out than in.
Outside the department, I have enjoyed the plethora of opportunities afforded to me as a physics student. I have been able to speak at my high school about the value of a physics degree and have gotten to help many students navigate the difficult season of picking a college and major. I have loved having opportunities to tutor younger students. Being a physics major has also given me a platform to talk about diversity in STEM and access to a wide range of career opportunities.