Mount Allison physics student takes home first place at national conference

07 Nov 2016

Maeve WentlandWhen it comes to physics, Maeve Wentland knows how to talk the walk.

Wentland, a third-year physics major with a double minor in computer science and drama, recently won first place at the Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference for her presentation in particle and nuclear physics.

“I had been to a bunch of the other talks and saw some that were very, very well done, so I was very excited,” she says. “A large part of the marking came from how you answered questions and I was lucky that I knew the theory of what I explained quite well. It’s a true test of what you know because you are suddenly off script. And studying drama helps too.”

Wentland’s presentation centred around summer research she completed under the supervision of Dr. David Hornidge.

She spent two-and-a-half months in Germany, living and working at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz with the Mainz Microtron (MAMI), one of approximately 10 undergraduate students among a team made up mainly of master’s and postdoctoral students, as well as full professors.

“It was spectacular,” she says. “I lived there before and I speak the language, so it was a good chance to experience a new culture and live in a new place, and the people were really nice as well.”

Wentland, who is from Camrose, AB, was interested in this particular research, examining neutron scalar polorizabilities, not only because it gave her the chance to work in Germany, but because it was very computer-based, which appealed to her interest in computer science. She was also familiar with the project because her friend Meg Morris (’16) had worked on it before she graduated.

“We haven’t done the experiment yet, so I was running simulations, a computer program that helped us determine what the data might look like,” she says.

The experiment is looking at the stretchability and alignability of particles.

“It is science for science’s sake,” she says. “It’s something we don’t know very well at the moment. We already have values for these properties, but they have a high degree of error, so we are trying to understand them better and using a new technique to do that.”

Wentland says attending the conference was an invaluable experience.

“It really forces you to figure out what you know and what you don’t know,” she says. “Being able to communicate it is as important as getting to learn it.”

Wentland plans to pursue a master’s degree after graduation, then ultimately pursue a career that blends physics and computer science.

In the meantime, she is taking full advantage of her time at Mount Allison. She is part of the Physics Society executive, teaches swing dancing, and tries to attend as many events as she can, particularly drama and Math & Computer Science Society events.

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