Academics: Majors and Programs

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Studying Matter, Energy and Their Interactions (continued)

While Asha Nurse-Clifford received her doctorate in the mechanics of solids from Brown University’s School of Engineering in 2010, it is Spelman she says that fortified her physics and mathematics abilities. “Through coursework I developed great analytical thinking skills as well as independent study habits and time management skills that greatly helped in graduate school and beyond,” said the Spelman summa cum laude 2005 physics graduate.  “My knowledge on some subjects exceeded that of my peers, but more importantly, I was confident and articulate. I attribute this to our class presentations at Spelman.”

Lauding the small class sizes, labs, tutors, study groups, and the ability to attend conferences on and off campus as well as summer research programs, the NIST-ARRA postdoctoral fellow credits the Spelman physics department’s individualized attention and dedicated professors for her success.

Spelman Physics Builds Confidence

Upon arrival at Spelman, Andrea Greene, now a mechanical design manager at L-3 Maritime Systems, doubted she could do physics. But, a physics professor’s encouragement changed her mind, and now she says her scientific foundation far exceeds her peers. Without that platform, Greene, who performs mechanical design analysis and manufactures mechanical structures, says it wouldn’t have been possible to be successful in graduate school.

Greene, 36, received her bachelor’s degree in physics from Spelman in 1997.  She later received another bachelor’s and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech.

During her years at Spelman, Greene took advantage of various opportunities.  She held summer internships at Arizona State University, the University of Pennsylvania and Lucent Technologies and conducted research experience at the Clark Atlanta University Center of Excellence in Microelectronics and Photonics.  She also published a paper in the Applied Physics journal, presented research at events, and was a National Science Foundation Research Undergraduate.

Always ready to give back, Greene is also the executive director for HooplifeAcademy.org, an organization created to inspire academic excellence and character building in young African-American athletes. 

Those Who Can Do, Also Teach

Adrienne D. Stiff-Roberts’ passion inspires the next generation of physics majors.  Dr. Stiff-Roberts, 35, is an assistant professor in the Duke University department of electrical and computer engineering.

She earned a doctorate in applied physics at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and has multidisciplinary research interests. These include physics, electrical engineering, and materials science. Her undergraduate degree in physics from Spelman in 1999 gave her footing in a variety of areas.  “I was attracted to physics because it is so fundamental to understanding the world around us,” says the summa cum laude Spelman graduate.

Although it wasn’t very long ago, Dr. Stiff-Roberts studied physics in a different venue than this century’s Spelmanites. Since then, the physics department increased the number of faculty, moved into a new building that greatly increased the number of teaching and research laboratories, and added course offerings to span the full range of undergraduate physics.

After Spelman, Dr. Stiff-Roberts took her physics major and honed in on optics, combining physics with electrical engineering.  This led to her second bachelor’s degree – electrical engineering – that came from Georgia Tech, where she later picked up a master’s degree in the same subject. 

Dr. Stiff-Roberts says that Spelman provided important intangibles that introduced her to advanced mathematics, experimental work and theoretical modeling, and the means “to study any other area of science or engineering.”

Dr. Stiff-Roberts has received many grants and contracts.  In 2009, President Barack Obama named her an outstanding early-career scientist.

Check out the Stiff-Roberts Research Group.