2023 REU Maurissa Higgins Shares Her Experience at the March 2024 APS Conference

Written by Maurissa Higgins

Maurissa Higgins at APS Conference

University of Alabama at Birmingham’s 2023 NSF Summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program allowed me the opportunity to grow my research skills and interpersonal connections. Over the ten weeks, I worked closely with Dr. Yogesh Vohra and Matthew Clay under the Department of Physics. During this time, I learned a great deal about condensed matter research and the common techniques used in modern research. I then applied what I learned in several ways throughout the summer, including analyzing X-Ray Diffraction data taken at the Argonne National Laboratory and taking Neutron Diffraction data at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

After the summer concluded, I expressed interest to Dr. Vohra and Matthew in presenting our results at a national conference, which led me to the APS March 2024 conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota where I participated in a poster expo. During the expo, I had the opportunity to talk about our work with other undergraduate students, graduate students, post-docs, and career professionals. Attendees possessed a range of understanding in condensed matter research, giving me the opportunity to practice presenting the research to a diverse audience.

In addition to presenting my own work, I also had the opportunity to hear about other ongoing projects and to discuss modern problems in physics. One of the most memorable discussions I participated in was “Addressing Misinformation about Science: Moving from Correction to Connection,” where I discussed strategies in communicating about misinformation with both people working inside and outside of science fields. One unique project I had the opportunity to hear about and which I would be interested in pursuing in the future was research being conducted on clouds and hazes and molecules in exoplanet atmospheres with a focus of applications to understanding the development of our own atmosphere.

In the past few months, I’ve learned about my own interests and strengths and have grown my research and interpersonal skills thanks to the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Summer REU. I can’t wait to see how these experiences will change and impact my future in physics.