Physics graduate combines academic, personal interests


KENNESAW, Ga. (May 11, 2020)For thousands of Kennesaw State students each semester, graduation represents a defining moment. It is an opportunity to reflect on their entire educational journey - the mentors they found, the friendships they made and the opportunities they seized. In recognition of that, we are spotlighting students who are completing their final semester at KSU. Emma Pearson, who is earning a degree in physics, shares in her own words what made KSU the perfect fit.

Emma Pearson

Growing Up

My mom is a professional seamstress, and I was homeschooled, so I spent a lot of time as a child doing arts and crafts. We tried a pretty wide variety of stuff, from jewelry-making to pottery to cake decorating, and if it involves string/yarn/thread I've probably tried it at least once – knitting and embroidery were my favorite. I can use a sewing machine, but even as a little kid, I was a perfectionist and preferred to work by hand. As a teenager, I actually helped my mom with her work doing jobs that required a steady hand and a high level of attention to detail. 

My experience at KSU as a researcher

I work with Dr. David Joffe and several other students (Hana Weinstein, Gracyn Jewett, Katie Bishop, Christian Perez) on a detector system for cosmic ray muons. Once our detectors are fully functional, we would like to use them for muon tomography, a technique that uses naturally occurring muons to map the inside of a large structure.

The system we are currently working on is based on a parallel plate ionization detector, but we have also built several multi-wire proportional chambers (MWPCs), which are a common piece of equipment in particle physics. I took both a set of parallel plates and an MWPC to DC to talk about different methods for detecting cosmic ray muons.

I got involved with this project about two years ago, while an older student (Mike Reynolds – he graduated last year and is now pursuing a Ph.D. at Vanderbilt) was building the MWPCs.

I always thought of my crafting skills as a hobby. I wanted to be a scientist, and it never occurred to me that those things could go together.

I got involved in research because I was taking Physics 2213 with Dr. Joffe. One day, he got to talking about this project and he was like, ‘There's these tiny wires, and if you're good at stuff like, I don't know, knitting,’ (looks at me out of the corner of his eye) ‘you could probably build these wire chambers.’”

I thought soldering tiny gold wires sounded like a fun way to spend a summer, so I agreed. I thought it was going to be a small thing, and if you'd told me then where I'd be now, I wouldn't have believed you.

I think Dr. Joffe saw potential in me that I didn't know I had, and even now I'm still surprised sometimes that it's actually me going to conferences and presenting stuff and getting into graduate school. It amazes me to stand at the end of my undergraduate looking back and to see how God gave me a very specific skill set to bloom where I was planted.

Emma Pearson

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit