Name: Jillian Scudder ’09
Hometown: Sarasota, Florida
Majors at Mac: Physics and French
Graduate program: Astronomy, University of Victoria, British Columbia
Started: September 2009
Working on: Master’s degree in astronomy, and then onto PhD studies Projected to be finished: Summer 2014.
Research: My research is centered on galaxies that are clustered together in groups of four to six, known as Compact Groups. My master’s project is an attempt to figure out whether these groups are long-lived structures or whether we’re seeing more of a “snapshot” of the middle of a transient state.
After grad school: A postdoctoral fellowship, which will give me some pure research time, and then I’ll probably seek a university faculty position.
How Mac helped: My Physics and Astronomy Department professors were incredibly helpful with the graduate school application process. My advisor and honors thesis advisor helped me narrow down my list of potential schools and then get through the application process. This was especially important for me, since I submitted most of my applications while studying abroad.
How French comes in handy: As a bilingual country, Canada has a fair amount of French around. In the future I’ll have plenty of opportunities to return to France for conferences, when the ability to express myself in French will become extremely useful.
Advice for prospective students: Don’t underestimate the advantages a liberal arts education can give you, even in the hard sciences like physics and astronomy. Particularly in astronomy, many students are coming from very field-specific undergraduate educations. Having the breadth of knowledge that Macalester gives you turns out to be a distinct advantage in ways you won’t expect. Macalester trains you to think, both creatively and critically. No matter what field you go into, that will serve you well.