Posted April 28, 2008

Physics Graduate Student Selected to Attend Nobel Meeting this Summer


Sonja Ingram, a third year physics graduate student, has been selected to attend the prestigious 58th Meeting of Nobel Laureates this summer in Lindau, Germany. The conference will be held June 29-July 4.

“I feel honored that I was chosen,” said Ingram, 25. “I think it is a great opportunity and I am excited to be a part of it.”

Since 1951, Nobel Laureates in chemistry, physics, and physiology/medicine have convened annually in Lindau to have open and informal meetings with students and young researchers.

The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science and the National Science Foundation Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences are sponsoring a group of top young researchers to attend the 2008 meeting.

The DOE/NSF delegation consists of U.S. doctoral students whose current research at their universities is funded by one of the sponsoring agencies. These students will travel to Lindau to participate in discussions with the Nobel Laureates, as well as other graduate students and junior researchers from around the world. Approximately 500 students and young scientists are expected to attend.

Each university could nominate up to two students or young scientists to participate in this year’s meeting. Ingram was nominated by Aquiles Iglesias, Dean of the Graduate School, and received letters of support from, among others, the Provost and Physics Professor A. Marjatta Lyyra.

A Future Faculty Fellow who works in Lyyra’s research group, Ingram said she thinks attending the conference will give her a broader knowledge of the field of physics, as well as motivate her in her own research.

“It will be really interesting to hear the leading physicists in the world talk about their most recent work and their experiences that got them to where they are in their careers,” said Ingram, whose own research is in molecular quantum optics. “Working in a lab with your own group, it is easy to feel like what you are doing doesn’t really matter.

“This conference will afford me the opportunity to meet others, to see and hear what their contributions are, and it will broaden my sense of scientific community,” she said.

Upon returning from the conference, Ingram has stated her plans to share her experiences with others in Temple’s science community.

“To help inspire underrepresented students as well as female physics students, I plan to give a presentation about the Lindau conference for physics undergraduate and graduate students and for the Future Faculty Fellows program,” Ingram wrote in her personal statement to the Lindau conference selection committee.

“I will also help mentor the minority student cohort in the NSF-funded Bridge to Doctorates program, which Temple University is hosting. In addition, since our research group supports undergraduate research through NSF REU supplements, I will also help to mentor undergraduate students in research while working on my doctoral thesis.”

That Ingram plans to mentor undergraduate students should not be surprising, since she hopes to one day pursue a career in teaching instead of research.

“Having a good teacher makes you enjoy the material that much more,” she said. “But attending this conference may change my thinking of pursuing teaching instead of research to perhaps combining both, so we’ll have to wait on that.”

A native of Wisconsin, Ingram earned her bachelor’s degree in physics from Grove City College. Following graduation she got married and applied to graduate school at many of the same universities where her husband applied to medical school. She received a fellowship to Temple and her husband was accepted at the University of Pennsylvania.

Since this will be her first trip to Europe, Ingram plans to stay an extra week and do some sightseeing with her husband, who will be joining her in Germany.