Summer internship leads to applying to graduate school

Georgia Nissen (right) in the lab at Purdue University
Georgia Nissen (right) in the lab at Purdue University

By Addie Nabholz ’25

Georgia Nissen ’24 was one of only 12 applicants selected from a pool of 200 to participate in Purdue University’s 2023 summer Research Experience for Undergraduates program.

During her 10 weeks at Purdue, the math and physics major worked on a research project under Dr. Souvik Das through Purdue’s Department of Physics. In physics, a particle detector is used to measure one or more properties of a particle and a tracker follows the trajectory of those particles. Nissen’s project was to optimize the glue holding a particle tracker to a specific detector.

“I did this by creating a simulation where other scientists were able to take my data and test the amount of heat flowing through the tracker. The more heat being extracted from the tracker the better,” Nissen said.

She credits her Wartburg classes for part of her success within the REU Program.

“My classwork at Wartburg gave me background information that was expected for me to know at Purdue, which made it easier for me to do things on my own,” said Nissen, who was recently named Wartburg’s Outstanding Senior in mathematics. 

Georgia Nissen

“My classes at Wartburg always encourage group projects but seeing it in the workplace was really cool. There were times where I thought, maybe I wasn’t smart enough to be there, but it was important to remember they chose me to be a part of this program for a reason. They wanted to see me succeed. It’s important to not be afraid of putting yourself in a situation like that.”

Conducting research at Purdue also showed Nissen the collaborative side of physics.

“I learned the importance of talking to many different people when working on a project. There was never a day where someone from another group or project didn’t come in,” Nissen said. “We talked to other particle physics offices, to biophysicists, and to astrophysicists. It’s a small discipline, but it’s not isolated.”

Nissen would recommend the REU Program to other students.

“I had so much fun. I’m still friends with the people I met at Purdue,” she said. “I would tell other students to ask questions and go into the program with an open mind.”

After graduation, Nissen plans to attend Florida State University to pursue a doctorate in physics.

“The REU program helped prepare me because it gave me a good insight into the graduate school environment. I really liked the collaborative environment I got at Purdue, and I know now I want to go into particle physics specifically,” said Nissen.