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5 Things About Me: Physicist Erin Boyd

AAAS Congressional Fellow Erin Boyd says

Erin Boyd
AAAS/APS Congressional Fellow
Office of Senator Al Franken (D-MN)
Washington, D.C.

Background: A physicist by training, for my Ph.D. research I used a custom-built, liquid-helium cooled scanning gate microscope to characterize the electrical properties of nanowires. Future applications for these nanostructures include use in designs for faster and more powerful electronics.

This AAAS/APS fellowship is giving me the opportunity to use my technical background and problem-solving skills to inform policy decisions at a federal level. I am having an amazing time learning how the federal government and the Hill operate, while working on issues with near-term potential for societal impact. The placement in Franken's office provides me with the opportunity to focus on my interest in energy and environmental policy in an office that is also committed to these issues.

Question 1: Why did you become a researcher/engineer/scientist?
In high school I had an amazing physics teacher, who got me excited about physics and how everyday phenomena could be explained by physical laws. I started undergrad at Carnegie Mellon University majoring in electrical engineering, but by my second year had also declared physics as a second degree. I then ultimately ended up getting my Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University. I think that my high school teacher's commitment to opening students' eyes to what physics is capable of was a major factor that helped me choose my path.

Question 2: What fuels your passion for your work?
Climate change has the potential to cause dramatic and catastrophic changes across the planet. I see one of the greatest challenges facing humankind as finding a way to harmonize our growing dependence on energy with environmental stewardship and sustainability. Developed countries are continuing to use large amounts of energy, while emerging and undeveloped countries will continue to increase their energy consumption as they strive for the standard of living those in developed countries enjoy. The grand challenge is determining how we can balance our dependence on energy with protecting the planet so future generations have a livable Earth. This question fuels my passion for energy and environmental policy.

Question 3: Tell us about a hobby or passion outside of work.
I love to travel. Food, language, customs, and flora are some of my favorite characteristics to compare and contrast. Whether it is exploring U.S. national parks or large foreign cities, I love exploring new cultures and locales. I tend to form a bond with each new place I visit. My most recent trip was to Southern Spain, where I had the chance to travel this summer.

Question 4: Tell us a short story about your childhood.
My favorite sport to watch is football, and I am a HUGE Steelers fan. Growing up in western Pennsylvania, I think love of football and the Steelers is bred into you.  However, one thing I learned the hard way, when I turned eleven, is that you should not plan a Steelers' playoff game as the entertainment at your birthday party. The Steelers losing to the San Diego Chargers definitely put a damper on the celebration!

Question 5: What's your favorite food? Got a sweet tooth? Are you a caffeine junkie? Are you a chef or a restauranteur?
I love experimenting in the kitchen with new recipes and techniques.  I enjoy cooking and baking, but I have to say that baking is probably my favorite, which might be because I have a huge sweet tooth!

Representative Image Caption
AAAS Congressional Fellow Erin Boyd says "I am fascinated with how matter behaves on very small scales. For my Ph.D., I chose to study semiconductor nanotechnologies in part because it provided an opportunity to see quantum mechanically phenomena on a daily basis...which is pretty awesome!" (Photo: Joanna Fassinger)
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