Leslie Lamarche 

  • Second year graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Research assistant at the  Geophysical Institute (Fairbanks, Alaska)
  • BS: University of New Hampshire 

Why did you choose physics for your career?

Beginning in middle school, science has always been entertaining to me. I had a lot of fun in my science classes. I enjoyed the hands on aspect of the courses. It’s always cool to see how things work and I enjoy the math. My parents have always been supportive. My dad is a computer engineer and he loves to hear about things I am doing in my research.

How many female classmates did you have in your undergraduate school?

We started with about four girls, and by the end of the program, there were only two. I had one professor who insisted that we fill out course evaluations without demographic information, because with only two females the information wouldn’t be anonymous. Being in the minority never bothered me, but I can see why it would be intimidating. If you are a girl who has never been around guys it will be a little weird initially, but it is easy to get used to.

What advice can you give to the future female graduate students? 

If you like science then do it. Do not let anything to stop you.

How to deal with graduate school and school in general: it is going to be hard, but it will get better and you will get through it. Even if it feels like you won’t get through everything, you still WILL get through everything! Try to manage your time well, and try to finish assignments before they are due. Try to enjoy it, try to concentrate on things that you like in your program.

What class(es) are you a teaching assistant for this semester?

I am teaching astronomy labs. Students learn about stars, planets, distances between them, how stars work, and how galaxies form. There are a lot of cool examples of physics in space, particularly, physics in extreme environments that do not exist on the Earth. Such as, the fact that a teaspoon of a special kind of star called a neutron star would weigh as much as an elephant if it were on earth.

Tell me a little bit about your current research. What exactly do you study?

I look at plasma structures in the ionosphere that can cause radio communication problems. The ionosphere is a region of the atmosphere that is over 100 km above the surface of the Earth which is partially composed of ions. Specifically, I am trying to describe the behavior of those structures in the polar cap region. I get to interpret data that was collected by radar signals sent to probe the ionosphere.


Victoriya Forsythe

Edited by Christina Chu