MHC’s Greenberg '09 Wins Major Physics Award

Posted: October 5, 2009

Kathryn (Katie) Greenberg '09 has been awarded the 2009 LeRoy Apker Award by the American Physical Society--adding to her already impressive list of accomplishments as a Mount Holyoke undergraduate.

Each year the APS presents two Apker Awards to recognize outstanding achievements in physics by undergraduate students and to encourage young physicists who have demonstrated great potential for future scientific accomplishment. While the awards are typically presented to one student from a Ph.D.-granting institution and one student from a non-Ph.D.-granting institution, this year both recipients are from  women's undergraduate colleges—Greenberg and Bilin Zhuang of Wellesley College. The women will each receive a $7,000 prize, and Mount Holyoke will receive $6,000 to support undergraduate research.

“This is the American Physical Society’s highest recognition of significant research accomplishments by an undergraduate student in physics,” said Neal Abraham, executive director of Five  Colleges, Incorporated, and a fellow of the American Physical Society. “It not only recognizes the high caliber of the research done by Katie Greenberg, but it also brings recognition and credit to the educational environment and research support at Mount Holyoke College, in the sciences more generally and in the physics department in particular. Katie’s accomplishments and this recognition by APS reinforce the importance and significance of undergraduate student research in liberal arts colleges across the country.”

Greenberg, a resident of Raleigh, North Carolina, is the daughter of Carol Ann and Bob Greenberg. Last year she was awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to pursue a master of philosophy degree in physics. She was also awarded a Churchill Fellowship and was a finalist for a Fulbright Fellowship, but declined them in order to accept the Gates. She is currently at the University of Cambridge working with Sir Richard Friend, knighted for his work in physics, on a project to create more efficient polymer LEDs.

As a physics major at Mount Holyoke, Greenberg studied heating and thermal coupling in arrays of vertical cavity surface emitting lasers in the lab of Janice Hudgings, associate professor and chair of physics. She will begin working on a doctorate in physics at Harvard University next year.

"This is the major national undergraduate prize in physics," Hudgings said of her former student's award.

"For undergraduate science students, working with a faculty member on a research project can be one of the most powerful learning experiences they encounter at Mount Holyoke," Hudgings added. "It immerses students in the real practice of science, moving their education from the classroom to the lab or the field where science is actually done."

"When I found out that I had won the Apker Award I was thrilled," Greenberg said. "I thoroughly enjoyed my four years at Mount Holyoke, and the highlight of my studies was the research on VCSELs that I did in Janice's lab. I'm grateful to the physics department for all of the support and encouragement they've given me."

Greenberg will receive her award at the APS March 2010 meeting in Portland, Oregon. Mount Holyoke last had a finalist for the Apker Award in 2001: Charis Quay Huei Li '01 went on to receive a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford in January 2008 and is now a postdoc at the Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique (CEA) Saclay in France.

Related Links:

Apker Finalists

LeRoy Apker Award

Katie Greenberg '09 Wins Gates Award

Physics at MHC