Michelle Kelley wins “Outstanding Poster Presentation” at Undergraduate Women in Physics conference

Siv Schwink

Physics Illinois senior Michelle Kelley won an award for “Outstanding Poster Presentation” at the 2014 Midwest Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics at the University of Chicago. Kelley created the poster while participating in the 2013 Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program last summer at the Department of Physics at the University of Washington in Seattle, funded by the National Science Foundation. 

Kelley’s winning poster, entitled “Quantized superfluid vortex ring dynamics in the unitary Fermi gas,” is based on the work she carried out under the guidance of UW physicists Michael McNeil Forbes and Aurel Bulgac. The team’s research is published in the article “Quantized Superfluid Vortex Rings in the Unitary Fermi Gas” January 17, 2014 in Physical Review Letters, v. 112, issue 2, 025301 (2014).

Kelley comments, “I had an illuminating time in Seattle. I worked with theoretical and numerical models and ran simulations to try to explore the seemingly weird results of experiments conducted this past spring at the MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms.” 

Kelley, an Illinois native who grew up in the Chicago suburbs in Schaumburg and graduated from Hoffman Estates High School, is planning an academic career in physics, either as a professor or research physicist. After she graduates from Physics Illinois at the end of this semester, she will enroll in an advanced degree program, though she is still weighing her options for graduate school.

Kelley is currently a finalist in the running for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which would support her seeking a master of philosophy degree in scientific computing, before going on to pursue a doctoral degree in physics. 

As a future academician, Kelley aspires to be a good communicator of science, not only to students with a strong interest, but also to young people who haven’t yet learned how much fun science is.

“I’m really interested in educational outreach opportunities for high school or younger students, to get them interested in physics and science,” she shares.

It’s a subject she herself is especially passionate about: “I’m a lover of all academic subjects. I love math and physics, but I also love philosophy. Of course, you can’t major in everything, and I think physics is the closest thing to doing that—and for me, physics is the most rigorous and fulfilling.

“When I’m talking to my non-science friends, I like to tell them that my planned career path is just to learn about the universe for as long as I can.”


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