Inspiring Science, Near and Far

Megan TalleyAt the University of Glasgow, well-worn pathways connect great stone buildings, and ancient footsteps echo in the cloisters. Founded in 1451, the Scottish institution is still a renowned research university that hosts the Principia Consortium, a study abroad program for exceptional students from selected U.S. schools – Christopher Newport is one of only 22 participants – that offers an intensive academic and cultural experience.

For senior applied physics major Megan Talley (pictured, above), who spent nearly four months last year in Glasgow as CNU’s representative to the Consortium, the experience was a highlight of her undergraduate years. “It gave me the opportunity to live and travel independently while experiencing another country’s culture,” she says, “and I made lasting friendships with people around the world.” While in Scotland, she took courses in advanced physics, math and the Scottish enlightenment. A fourth class explored the history and repertoire of the bagpipes, which covered the pipes, how they developed over time and influenced Scottish history. Students were even instructed in how to play the instrument, a special experience, and particular favorite for Talley. “The bagpipes class was an absolute blast!” she remembers.

Talley credits CNU mathematics instructor Dr. Dennis Weygand with kindling her interest in physics research. Weygand, who is also a staff scientist at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (JLab) in Newport News, involved Talley in an experiment her sophomore year, where she developed a passion for a career in nuclear and particle physics. “Dr. Weygand is absolutely brilliant, and he loves to share what he knows with his students,” Talley says. “He isn’t afraid to give an undergraduate tough work, and though he has high expectations, he guides you throughout the entire research process.”

Her current research involves analyzing data generated by JLab’s particle accelerator, which aims beams of light and subatomic particles at one another to produce collisions. Scientists then study the results – for Talley, what happens when protons collide with the beam of light – to gain a greater understanding of the subatomic and nuclear worlds. “Megan continues to develop as a young scientist,” says Weygand. “I am completely certain that in the future she will be a leader in the next generation of American scientists. She is highly motivated and hard-working, tenacious and smart, an excellent combination, and I am sure that she will succeed in any endeavor.”

Her junior year, Talley was awarded a Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to work at JLab during the summer of 2011 along with Weygand. She has continued working at JLab this year with a group of CNU faculty and student researchers funded by the National Science Foundation. “I love to learn, and I love to see the world and experience new things. My physics research has given me the chance to discover things no one else has seen,” Talley says.

Her future plans include graduate school and a rigorous research career in physics. She credits her CNU experience with opening doors and laying limitless opportunity at her feet. “CNU makes it so easy to follow your passions – you just have to take the first step,” she says. “CNU gave me the chance to experience the world!” --Brian McGuire

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