When Erica Snipes first headed to Wittenberg she thought her future was in marine biology. Little did she know that by the end of her college career she would be an accomplished student in the university's Department of Physics.
"My first experience with physics was in high school, I took my first physics class there and have been in love with it since," Snipes said.
Since arriving in Springfield, Snipes has taken her major as far as California, where she worked on a National Science Foundation-funded research project at the University of California-San Diego in 2008. Her work on non-neutral plasma physics was supported by the National Science Foundation Research for Undergraduate Experience program. She has since made presentations on the subject at physics meetings during the 2008-09 school year.
While Snipes has attended several professional meetings, the two most recent were the fall meeting of the Ohio section of the American Physical Society at Miami University and the November meeting of the Division of Plasma Physics of the American Physical Society in Dallas. At both of these meetings Snipes presented her research from the previous summer at UCSD.
"Attending both of these meetings allowed me to get a better understanding of what physics at a professional level is like," Snipes said.
As well as attending professional meetings, Snipes has been a tutor in the math workshop for three years. She has also worked as a teacher's assistant for the physics department under Associate Professor of Physics William Dollhopf, and she has prepared her senior honors thesis under the direction of Assistant Professor of Physics Jeremiah Williams. The tremendous faculty support has been very important for Snipes and her professional aspirations.
"All of my physics professors have been incredible," Snipes said.
Snipes has also been active in Wittenberg's chapter of the Society of Physics Students, and under her leadership the chapter received an Outstanding Chapter Award from the national office in 2008. Her time at Wittenberg hasn't been all business though – she has been a member of the Wittenberg Swingers, a swing dance group, throughout her collegiate career. She has served as a swing dance instructor for the last three years.
After graduation, Snipes plans to continue her physics studies. Her plans start with graduate school at Auburn University in Alabama.
"Ideally, I would like to be a professor of physics at a small liberal arts school similar to Wittenberg," Snipes said. "I have enjoyed the atmosphere here, and I would like the chance to help other students similar to me find excitement in physics.
"My department has been very supportive of me over the years, and I could never have gotten to where I am now without my professors and my fellow students."
- Written by Ronni Appenbrink '09
- Photo by Erin Pence