Credit: Laurel Hungerford Photography

Rebecca Riley is a 2nd year graduate student studying theoretical particle physics. She hopes to study quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the strong force, and their applications to nuclear physics. She is also interested in understanding dark matter and dark energy, as well as the identity of intrinsic quantum properties like spin and color. Once she obtains her Ph.D, Rebecca dreams of becoming an astronaut but would also enjoy exploring the secrets of the universe as a postdoc and eventual researcher. Outside of physics Rebecca enjoys partner dancing – everything from waltz to salsa to swing and blues – and enjoys going to any social events when she can. She also loves music and is currently working with KUCI 88.9 to bring her radio program from her undergrad onto SoCal airwaves. You can check out her show The Rebelution on Facebook. To maintain a good work/life balance, Rebecca makes it a habit to say “yes”, something she says you probably wouldn’t find in a self-help book. Saying yes to an intimidating or crazy proposition gave her some of the most enriching life experiences.

Resonance is a pilot program in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in which small groups of incoming students meet with continuing physics majors who serve as mentors. The goal of the program is to provide community among physics and applied physics students, build excitement about physics, and help students navigate challenges of the first year. Resonance’s eventual aim is to realize a vertical mentoring system in which everyone in the department – undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, and faculty alike – both serve as mentors and are mentored themselves, creating interconnections and community at all stages of academia. Rebecca worked with Dr. Laura Tucker to establish the Resonance program to promote the retention of freshmen in the physics major and improve their first-year experience. Research on mentoring shows that mentored students tend to stay in physics, have better college experiences, and even have higher GPAs. Mentorship is also disproportionately effective for students from groups typically underrepresented in the sciences (e.g. women, minorities, first-generation college students) and is one of the variety of ways the UCI Physics and Astronomy Department is working to promote an inclusive and diverse physics cohort. The long-term vision for Resonance is for it to generate a more vibrant, interconnected, and academically productive culture for undergraduate physicists at UCI. Resonance is also working closely with the graduate mentoring program Exceleration and other graduate-undergraduate mentoring initiatives to promote social engagement and academic collaboration and support at all levels of physics education, from undergraduates to faculty members.


The Student Spotlights are a series brought to you by a collaboration between the UCI Physics and Astronomy Blog Team and the Physics Graduate Caucus at UCI