“There’s a lot of really cool things that you can study with physics, but I feel that if we don’t solve our energy crisis within my lifetime, none of that’s really going to matter. ... I want to help with that matter, help with that push, by either working on renewable energy or carbon capture that can really make in impact before it’s too late,” said Catherine Ryczek ’21, who will soon join the applied physics doctoral program at the California Institute of Technology.
Ryczek said she’s excited to continue studying physics at Caltech, a top university in science and engineering, following her graduation from Hamilton. The university’s research opportunities, “small school environment,” and warm weather enticed Ryczek to initially apply and ultimately accept their admissions offer.
“I want to be a professor, so I like the idea of both being able to teach and engage with students and pass on my knowledge of my enthusiasm, but I still really like the research aspect,” she said. “I’m very interested in renewable energy research, and by being a professor I can do both things, and I don’t have to give up one of them.”
Hometown: Harmony Township, N.J.
High School: Moravian Academy
At Caltech, she will work in the research lab of Dr. Harry Atwater, a leader in the field of renewable energy and sustainability.
Ryczek spent her four years at Hamilton exploring her physics major and computer science minor. During her sophomore year, she was named a Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, a premier national undergraduate recognition in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. Since her first year, she has also worked as a research assistant with Assistant Professor of Physics Kristen Burson. In 2019, she joined Burson at the Fritz-Harber Institute of the Max Planck Society in Berlin, where she analyzed low energy electron diffraction (LEED) data.
Around campus, Ryczek serves as the treasurer for the Society of Physics students and contributes to regular discussions on developing diversity, equity, and inclusion within the Physics Department. She stated that though she’s excited begin her time at Caltech, she will miss her peers at Hamilton. “The physics community is just so strong. It’s going to be weird to leave that and not see a lot of them for a while,” she said.