Geek of the Week: Deborah Good, Engineering Physics Senior

After two months at Mines, senior Deborah Good knew she wanted to some day be the Geek of the Week. However, in those two months Good began writing for The Oredigger, and then became an editor and finally was selected as editor-in-chief for the 2013-2014 school year. She always saw her being Geek of the Week as a conflict of interest, but the dream lived on. Now that Good has completed her editor-in-chief duties and is preparing to graduate, that dream can finally come true.

Why did you choose Mines?
I knew I wanted to be a physics major. I also wanted to be able to live at home because I turned 16 right before I started at Mines. My parents were not crazy about the idea of me going far, far away. But mostly because I knew I wanted to be a physics major and there was no reason to go somewhere exotic when there was a great physics school ten minutes from my house.

What was it like starting college at 16?
Much less exotic than people think it is. It just meant that I couldn’t drive other people until I was a sophomore, and I had to get a permission slip for field session. But, other than that, it really did not affect me. I had always hung out with people older than me anyhow, so it was not like I suddenly had a new friend group.

What made you want to be a physics major?
I was really into space as a kid. I went to a science center day camp and I got talking more seriously about how to go into a career in astronomy or science related to space with one of the counselors. She said that if I wanted to study astronomy I should get a degree in physics. Then I realized that if you tell people you want to be an astrophysicist, they look at you like you’re slightly insane, but they’re very impressed.

In your time on campus, what have you been involved with?
Predominantly I’ve been involved with The Oredigger. I spent years reading Geek of the Week, so I’m glad it’s no longer a conflict to interest for me to be Geek of the Week. I’ve been heavily involved in The Oredigger and in ETA (Equality Through Awareness, a program for women in physics). I was a SWE officer once. I’m a Sigma Pi Sigma officer. I’m in the McBride program. I feel like I’m missing something. Oh, I’m on the waltz team this year. This is why I don’t sleep.

How long have you wanted to be the Geek of the Week?
October 2010. I’ve always wanted to be Geek of the Week. When I started being content manager I started editing all of the articles and realized that Geek of the Week looked like fun. I wished I could answer all of those questions. It’s finally my turn.

What are your plans after Mines?
After Mines I am starting a master’s degree in astronomy at the University of British Columbia (in Vancouver) in September. I’m hoping to look at theoretical astrophysics, hopefully relativistic theoretical astrophysics. After my masters I plan on doing a PhD either at UBC or somewhere else.

What are you most excited for about graduating?
Sleep. No, but I am really excited to get to go to astronomy graduate school and go into my specific area of interest. I am also excited to be around other people who are excited about the same research topics I am, because there is not really a lot of astrophysics at Mines. I am excited to get to hang out with other astrophysicists. Also, I am taking the entire summer off. I am just going to sit around and do nothing. I am going to make a scrapbook from last summer. It is going to be great.

What’s been your favorite class at Mines?
The rest of the department is going to kill me for saying this, but Classical Mechanics. I pulled two all-nighters, and I learned a ton of stuff. I found it interesting the whole time.

Best memory at Mines?
A lot of times in my McBride classes are really notable, but I think the thing that stands out to me most is CuWIP (Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics) 2014. [I loved] my experience as momma duck all through Salt Lake City, and dramatically reading “Cosmo” at midnight. More generally, [I loved] getting the chance to kick back with a bunch of other physics majors in an environment where we didn’t have a ton of homework.

Any traumatic memories?
There are so many! When I thought I was going to get a C in quantum [mechanics]. That was pretty traumatic. For half a semester I could not get the hang of Mark Lusk’s tests, so I spend that half a semester convinced I was getting a C in quantum. And then, in turn, I was terrified I was never going to be a physicist if I got a C in quantum. No one would ever want me for grad school! (Everything turned out okay.)

Would you consider yourself a geek?
Sometimes I think no, and then I go on a tangent about some obscure aspect of the American Civil War or something like that. So, I think yes, but not in a traditional, Mines sense. I don’t care about sci-fi. I don’t care about comic books or video games. But, I’m kind of a humanities nerd.

What do you do for fun outside of the classroom?
Do I have fun outside of the classroom? Most of my fun time outside of the classroom is spent doing administrative things for the groups I’m involved in. I plan events for ETA. I’m working on snacks for the Sigma Pi Sigma induction ceremony right now. It’s spent on organization and working on things that I need to do for my other groups. I don’t spend a lot of time doing whatever I want. That’s why the summer’s going to be so fabulous.

Favorite fictional character?
Anne Shirley of “Anne of Green Gables.” She understands me on a deep, fictional level. My parents gave me a copy of Anne of Avonlea when I was six or seven, and it is inscribed to “Our Anne.” I was the biggest drama queen as a kid. I was pretty much Anne for a long time.

Favorite movie?
Do I have a favorite movie? Movies are weird for me because I like a lot of movies, but I can’t say that I have a single favorite. I’m really partial to “Bringing Up Baby.” It’s a screwball comedy. It’s about a leopard and another leopard. One of them is a tame pet leopard and the other is a crazy, man-eating circus leopard. They get mixed up, and there are groups looking for the crazy, circus leopard and groups looking for the tame leopard. They are running all around, and it’s very funny. I’m also partial to “His Girl Friday,” particularly when I was on The Oredigger, because it’s all about a newspaper.

Favorite quote?
I do have a favorite quote. I usually apply it when TA-ing. It’s from Wolfgang Pauli. “It is not only not right, it is not even wrong.” It was my Physics I TA-ing motto.

What did you enjoy most about being a Physics 100 TA?
I really like grading. It’s a super unpopular opinion, but I like grading both exams and studios. It’s a little stressful when you do the first few, but then you get your system and get going. It’s kind of relaxing—except when they fail entirely. That’s depressing. Our average one semester was an eight out of 20. We were like, “Did we suck at TA-ing or was the test just hard? Did they not study?” It’s not fun when they do really, really poorly because you find yourself questioning what you’ve done. But, in general, I really enjoy grading.

What’s on your bucket list?
I have a bucket list! I want to take a train across the U.S. I want to spend at least a year working in an actual foreign country. I know I’m moving to Canada but I don’t count Canada on the same level. I want to get a dream job. I don’t know exactly what that is. I do not want to go so far as to say I want to get this dream job or that dream job. But I want to have a job where I’m like, that is exactly what I want. I really want to see the world. Honestly, I want to see a lot less of the Southern Hemisphere, but I really want to see most of the Northern Hemisphere.

What would your advice be to younger student?
Go to office hours. Most of the professors at Mines are not out to get you, and you will do much better because you will understand things better and you will be on their good side when it comes time to grade if you go talk to them. Be a person they know about. It will also make letters of recommendation easier later in your career. Don’t be invisible.

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