Geek of the Week: Amanda Casner, Physics, Sophomore

Amanda Casner is the perfect blend of geek and nerd at Mines, from loving physics to loving Harry Potter. In her second year at Mines, she has found her groove in the Mines community and also is a TA for Physics I.

Why did you decide to come to Mines?
It was actually the only school I looked at. I came here on one of the preview days and actually talked to a few of the physics majors and they showed me around the physics stuff and I just totally fell in love and like “I want to go here”. It was the only school I applied to, and the only school I looked at, and now I’m here.

Where did your love of physics start?
Actually, in middle school. We did basic, really basic kinematics like Newton’s Laws and stuff like that. and I just remember that our teacher was really cool–we were doing like a ball rolling down a hill and he made it the most exciting thing ever. and that made me really want to take physics in high school and it loved it more, and I just like it more and more the more I learn about it.

What is your favorite thing about physics this semester?
I think just how many facets there are to it. Because I think when people think of physics, they think, “Oh, Newton’s Second Law…I drew so many free body diagrams in Physics I”, which is true, but there’s also E & M, there’s also quantum and relativity… I’m in digital circuits right now and it’s like electrical stuff, but it’s also physics. It’s just cool to see physics applied to so many situations and how many parts there are to it, and I think that is really cool.

How has the TA experience been?
I really enjoy it. I love being able to explain it and I love when the students ask questions that I can’t really answer, because that gets me really excited and thinking about things that I didn’t think about when I was in Phys I. So it’s like learning it again, except deeper. It’s really cool.

Was there a time in your life when you realized you were a nerd?
Yes! There was like “that moment.” I was in high school, and one of my friends asked me to help them with homework. It was some sort of math or science, I don’t remember. But I ended up just getting so into their homework, that I did it for them and actually enjoyed doing it [laughs]. And that was when I knew that I was destined to be a nerd forever.

Favorite superhero?
I want to say Thor, because he’s kind of a badass, but I’m also not as familiar with Marvel and superheroes. But Thor is pretty awesome, and his hair is glorious.

Who would be your favorite character from Middle Earth?
I like Sam Wise because he is so loyal and he never gives up on Frodo even when Frodo wants to give up on himself. And same is so humble and so caring and that whole scene at the end of Return of the King and there’s dramatic music and ash in the sky and he’s like, “You can do it, Mr. Frodo!” It’s pretty great.

Do you think there’s a difference between a geek and a nerd?
Yes. I’ve actually had this discussion with people before. I think a nerd is someone generally who everyone knows is smart and it kind of awkward and like the typical engineering student. I associate geek with more of like the Trekkies and the people who are into fantasy, geeky stuff. I guess in a nutshell, nerd would be more academic while a geek would be more like fiction. We definitely have nerds and geeks at this school, and you can definitely be both. But I do think there’s a distinction.

What is your favorite equation?
Is this a real question? [Laughs]. This is not something I came prepared for. I’m going to go with the relationship between potential and kinetic energy, because I think it’s cool that something has energy no matter what. Even if it’s not moving, we’ve got potential, and then it’s moving, and we can get it back…I think that’s cool though.

What has been your favorite class so far?
Modern physics. That was the class that I walked into every day and expected to get my mind blown, and then had my mind blown by how much my mind was blown. It was so great. And that class just gets you so pumped about everything you don’t know about physics.

What do you like best about Mines?
I really like that we’re all engineers and I can just shamelessly be a nerdy engineer and not have to worry that “Oh, those liberal arts majors are going to judge me,” because they don’t exist here. And everyone has that shared pain of Epics and NHV and everyone has so much in common and we can shamelessly be engineers.

What gets you through the late nights as a physics major?
Dove chocolate for sure, but the dark chocolate. And also my pump-up song is “Battle Cry” by Skillet. If I feel like I’m just going to fall over and die, I just put on that song and it gets me pumped again. That song gets me through studying a lot.

Future plans?
I’m not sure how I’m going to get there, but at some point I’d like to end up in education. I’m not sure whether I want to do high school or college level. I think being a TA has me leaning towards college. I’m not sure the route I’m going to go with that…I think eventually I’ll get a PhD. But right now I just want to graduate.

Do you have any advice for Mines students?
As long as you find something that you are passionate about and that you get excited about, then you will be successful. If you find yourself in a major in where you hate all your classes, it’s probably not the major for you. But as long as there’s that one thing that keeps you going, hold on to it because it’s going to get you places.

Favorite quote?
“If our God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

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