Naomi Gendler


June 1, 2016

Hometown: Evanston, Illinois

Adviser: Prof. David Griffiths [physics 1978–]

Thesis: Dark Matter Corrections to the Anomalous Magnetic Moment of the Muon

What it’s about: A muon is almost exactly like an electron, but 200 times heavier. The current theoretical value of the magnetic moment of the muon (a property that dictates how it responds to being placed in a magnetic field) is significantly off from the experimental value. I’m trying to see if there’s any way I can push that theoretical value up to the experimental value.

What it’s really about: Doing a lot of algebra and letting my imagination run wild.

Who I was when I got to Reed: Tired of the restricting structure of high school, I wanted to go to a school where people were invested in learning the material rather than collecting points for a grade at the end of the semester. In high school there was a lot of talk about extra credit. Make a poster and get five points extra credit. When I was visiting Reed a professor told me, “You will never hear the words ‘extra credit’ here.” I said, “Great. Sign me up.”

Favorite class: Quantum Mechanics II and General Relativity both left me with my jaw wide open after each class.

Influential book: I always wanted to go off on my own like Corduroy in the book by Don Freeman. Reed has not been a solitary adventure by any means, but knowing how to have a solitary adventure is one of the most important things I’ve learned.

A concept that blew my mind: The goal in high-energy theoretical physics is to try to get down to the very essence of what is happening. We have this idea that at its very core the way the world works is somehow going to be simple and elegant. We have no reason to think it should be simple and elegant, but there’s just something deep inside that makes me feel that is the case and makes me really want to figure out what it is.

Outside the classroom: I learned how to cook, volunteered at OMSI, did an independent study on quantum field theory, and visited NASA.

How Reed changed me: I grew into both the person the high school version of me wanted me to be and the person she never would have expected me to be. I learned how to be confident when facing people who didn’t believe in me or didn’t take me seriously, and how to be sure of my passions.

What’s next: I will be doing a one-year master’s degree in applied mathematics at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and then head to Cornell to do my Ph.D. focusing in high-energy theoretical physics.