On Monday morning, Columbia Society for Women in Physics (CSWP) hosted Kendall Mahn, a physicist from Michigan State University, for a CSWP Breakfast Chat before her Physics Colloquium: “See the World with Neutrinos: Current and Future Accelerator-Based Neutrino Experiments.”
Dr. Mahn is a high energy particle experimentalist who researches neutrinos—subatomic particles with masses close to zero. Specifically, she tries to understand how neutrino-nucleon interactions affect measurements of neutrino oscillation. Animated and energetic, Dr. Mahn was the perfect guest for an early Monday morning. Over bagels and coffee, she shared not only enthusiastic stories about her career in physics but also answered our graduate and undergraduate student questions with some pretty incredible advice.
On deciding to stay in academia after undergrad: “I thought to myself, I should stay in science if there are scientific questions that get me out of bed in the morning. I decided there were at least three.”
On transitioning into post-doctoral studies: “You’re not going to be a rockstar right out of the gate. Give it six months to a year to adjust to any situation, and spend that time gathering information.”
On presenting: “Outline that mess, draft by hand, and don’t start with a blank set of PowerPoint slides.” Dr. Mahn also recommended Swedish author David J.P. Phillips TedX Talk, called “How to Avoid Death by PowerPoint”.
On worrying about whether you’re learning what jobs need you to know: “They’re looking for people who are genuinely excited about the problem and would fight to the death to solve it.”
On finding research and job opportunities: “It’s important to be putting your name out there in a respectful, simple way.”
On working and learning in competitive environments: “Decide what you need for you, and it’s okay not to care about anything else.”
On getting up every morning: “Pick things that make you happy and build them into your life.” For Dr. Mahn, that means finding the time for “good food and good people.”
Regardless of your field of study or where you are in your academic career, Dr. Mahn’s words of wisdom are relevant: take things on with genuine excitement, be honest with yourself, and find time for good food and good people in your life.
image via Columbia Physics