The Climate and Diversity Committee is committed to providing a welcoming climate within the School with special emphasis on inclusion, diversity and community building. Our mission is to establish structures to support communication, and prevent bullying, discrimination, and sexual harassment. Our members are drawn from the School’s faculty, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, and staff. We work closely with other organized forums whose goals overlap with ours, such as SPS, GradPhi, and WIPA.
Professor Priscilla Cushman (committee chair) -- I have had lots of experience working in large collaborations in high energy physics. In the past, this included work at CERN, but then I got interested in direct detection of dark matter using cryogenic solid state techniques. The new SuperCDMS experiment is being built at SNOLAB, a deep underground laboratory in Canada and is composed of 20 institutions from the US, Canada, UK, and India. Large research groups can be both daunting and exciting. I can share my experience and give you some pointers. Whether you join a large or a small research group, you should be able to have a fulfilling research experience and trust that your contributions are valued.
Assistant Professor Lindsay Glesener -- I am an astrophysicist who mainly studies the Sun. I collaborate on building new X-ray instruments as well as analyzing solar data from past and current spacecraft. Although I find this line of work very fulfilling, my academic path to get here wasn't a straight line. I had another career and tried other majors before I found physics as my calling. Not everyone knows what they want to do from the very beginning, and there are many paths by which you can accomplish your goals.
Assistant Professor Ke Wang -- I am a condensed matter experimentalist studying quantum phenomena in novel 2D materials. When I was a student, I participated in difficult research projects such as building quantum computing platforms by confining and manipulating a single electron. The challenging and demanding nature of the projects was rewarding, but at times stressful for an aspiring new physics student. Through constantly evaluating my priorities, methodolgies and goals, and frequently communicating with my advisors, I managed to remain productive and positive at challenging times when my experiments were “not working.” These practices allowed me to stay happy and productive throughout my PhD, and I can share my experience with you if you are facing similar challenges.
Jennifer Kroschel -- I manage the student programs office for the School of Physics. I've been working in higher education student services for about 15 years and love helping students reach their goals. Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my two boys (one human, one shih-poo) and co-zookeeper/husband.
Jessie Duncan (she/her) -- I am a graduate student working in solar physics, focusing on both data analysis and detector development for high energy x-ray instruments. I am in my third year of graduate school and my second year of working in this area; previously, I worked for the LIGO collaboration. I believe that the lack of diversity in physics causes us to miss out on a great deal of talent and perspective. I hope that this committee can work to make physics at Minnesota as welcoming as possible for everyone, especially those from underrepresented groups.
Brett Heischmidt (he/him/his) -- I am a second-year graduate student pursuing experimental condensed matter. My early work has centered around two-dimensional materials, with a recent focus on novel physics with potential device applications. As a member of this committee, I hope to help foster a supportive and productive environment for students at all stages of our educational journeys.
Lis Valor -- I am a graduate student working in the mysterious world of amorphous materials. My lab focuses in the study of optical and electronic properties of hydrogenated amorphous Si and Ge based thin films, and their optimization for solar cell applications and thin film transistors. I believe differences strengthen any community; they force us to interpret information and approach problems from different perspectives. Diversity and inclusion are imperative in moving forward and achieving meaningful results.
Aaron F. West (he/him) -- I am a third year grad student working on magnetospheric and auroral dynamics via theoretical modeling. Previously, I have contributed to renewable energy research at the University of Washington, and taught introductory science courses to middle school students. Outside of the office I adore music, theater, and tabletop roleplaying games, and all of the wonderful societies those intersect with. I am also the elected coordinator for 'Grad Phi', the physics graduate student life organization, where I seek to create a welcoming and positive community for physics grads. I believe everyone deserves a kind, supportive, and trustworthy space in which to live and work, and I hope to continue building that type of space here at the University of Minnesota with the Climate and Diversity team!
Matt Fritts -- I did my graduate work here at UMN with the SuperCDMS dark matter experiment, and now I'm back as a postdoc running a dilution refrigerator lab to test detectors for SuperCDMS SNOLAB. As a grad student I tried a few different groups while looking for an advisor, and got a taste of what it's like to work as a theorist where it's just you and your advisor, or with a small experimental group, or with a larger group with a lot more collaborators. Each working situation has its own rewards and challenges, and I hope that everyone here has as comfortable and productive an experience as I did.
Tanmay Agarwal -- I'm an international undergraduate student currently researching with the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search Experiment in developing a Neutron Veto for the SuperCDMS Experiment. I love asking questions and working with people to find solutions to the challenges around us. I'm also minoring in Leadership and foster a passion for public service and diversity engagement. Hoping to make a better, inclusive and supportive environment on campus for everyone. I'm here to support you as your peer, and you can ask me about student groups, volunteering and research at the University. Cheers!
Kat Couteaux -- I am a third year undergraduate student studying physics and math. Currently, I'm doing research with Professor Wang in condensed matter focusing on quantum phenomena of gate-defined nanostructures. Coming from a diverse background, I am motivated to help other students overcome barriers and find solutions to challenges that will create a constructive environment for everyone. I am excited to be a supportive resource, reach out to me to get more involved in the department!