Stefanie Hersey

Majors: Applied Mathematics and Physics
Hometown: Cranston, RI

What makes the College of Arts and Sciences at URI unique? 
The uniqueness of the College of Arts and Sciences at URI comes from the connections between each department in the college. Being in the physics department allowed me to take not only physics courses, but also computer science, math, education, as well as music and other fascinating science courses (like Oceanography) and taught me to connect the knowledge from one class to another. Specifically, the smaller size of the physics department granted me the ability to have a close tie with so many staff members as well as every one of my peers! Between the math and physics department, I feel as though I have so many friends and mentors to help me through my education. 

What accomplishments and activities are you most proud of doing while at URI?
I am proud of how many departments I have been able to dip my feet into while at URI. From an office job in the School of Education and TAing in the physics department to the plethora of physics, math, education, and general education courses I was able to take — this allowed me to experience so much of what the University of Rhode Island has to offer. I have been able to branch out and interact with so many different professors and departments — although I will always consider East Hall to be my second home! I am also proud of my research projects (below). Another activity I took part in was the club tennis team at URI (my sophomore and junior year). This allowed me to continue my lifelong love for tennis and let me focus on something else besides academics for once in college!

What research projects, internships, and/or study abroad programs did you participate in at URI? How did they enhance your education?
I was able to partner with Rhode Island Hospital Department of Oncology in a research experience in Medical physics. My research focused on Quality Control of Quality Assurance Devices used on machines that treat cancer patients. At the end of the program (July 2018), I was accepted by the American Association of Physicists in Medicine to present my research at their national conference in Nashville, TN. This provided me with my first poster presentation (and national conference), and the experience allowed me to experience more in the world of physics. It showed me my passion for physics stretches beyond the medical study, encouraging me to continue my education into a Physics Ph.D. program in hopes of becoming a researcher and professor in the future.

As a senior, I have also taken part in a capstone research project in the Department of Physics. In this project, I worked under the guidance of the amazing Dr. Leonard Kahn (one of my biggest inspirations and sources of guidance. I TA’d for him for 2 semesters, as well as had him for 4 classes, not including 2 semesters of research!). This project focused on the odd spinning nature of something called “Hurricane Balls” or double-spheres, in which two spheres welded together are spun quickly, and one observes one of the balls in contact with the surface, while the other is seemingly magically suspended in the air while the two dance around in circles. The project allowed me to further explore and confirm my passion for learning and studying physics. Being able to step outside of a rigid curriculum and apply concepts I have learned in class to a project I designed was a truly amazing experience!

What do you value about your liberal arts education?
I value the uniqueness of the education I have earned. Starting as an education/physics double major who later transitioned to a physics/math double major, I was able to pick up such valuable tools that not many others have. I have a better understanding of how to effectively communicate concepts to students — a skill which came alive in multiple semesters of being a teaching assistant. I have skills in coding from my computer science courses, and a stronger ability to apply mathematical concepts to physical phenomena than the average math major.

This past semester in Dr. Li Wu’s MTH 581 class, as a final project, we were instructed to use the tools we have gathered from class and find a model to predict the future of COVID-19 in Rhode Island. I was able to take data given by RIDOH (RI Department of Health) and use MATLAB to fit the curve up to current data, analyze the fit using Sum of Squares of Error analysis, and find a projection of my curve into the coming weeks. Using this, I am able to predict that we will see when the state could expect to see ~1 new case per day (around June 10), and ~ 1 new case per week (around June 22).

What’s next for you?
I will be continuing my education here at URI in the fall in the Applied Mathematics Masters 1-year program. After that, I hope to go on to earn a Ph.D. in Physics and, further down the line, become a professor of Physics.

Anything else you’d like to share about yourself?
I could not have accomplished everything I have thus far without the support of my family — especially my mom.