Erin Blauvelt is a physics graduate student at Lehigh University studying strongly coupled quantum phases of matter through AdS/CFT or holography which is a duality that comes out of the framework of string theory. 

It is an exciting time to be exploring quantum gravity! There are many open questions to investigate from cosmology to holographic condensed matter systems. Erin is passionate about fundamental physics and feels lucky to be able to contribute.

Erin's path through academia has been non-traditional. She attended Michigan State University after dropping out of high school and traveling around the country. After receiving a bachelors in physics at MSU, she worked for a software company before attending Lehigh University, where she is now.

She is a strong advocate for supporting the scientific curiosity of all interested persons and keeping an open mind. It is very important not to exclude people based on quick judgments or the way they look. 

Meet Theory Girl Erin

Meet Theory Girl Erin

Delilah Gates is a physics graduate student at Harvard University. She studies on high-spin black holes and gravity working to analytically characterize observational signatures of near extremal Kerr black hole using the emergent near-horizon conformal symmetry.

 

Delilah's interests include (near) extremal black hole geometries, black hole binaries, AdS/CFT correspondence, and black hole entropy. She never expected to live in the time where black holes transition from science fiction to science fact. So exciting!

 

Before joining Harvard, she earned two Bachelors of Science, one physics and one math, from the University of Maryland, College Park.

 

Delilah has a passion for support and community building within the physics community with a mindfulness towards equity for those who are members of underrepresented groups.

Meet Theory Girl Erin

 Welcome to our site! Science belongs to everyone and that includes you. 

I'd like to share how I came to study theoretical physics.

It was summertime in Austin, TX, and I was an 18-year-old high school drop out staring at a stack of three bathtubs suspended between two poles. Each one was separated from the other by about a foot and a half of space. The tubs were filled with rocks, dirt, and some leathery-looking plants. A dried-up tributary led from the base of the stack to a curious little pool of water with some lily pads. Next to the lily pads, there were plastic signs stuck into the soil, suggesting some kind of organized experimentation. I decided to find someone on the property that knew more about this set-up. A bunch of people were all living together in this really big house with chickens in the yard and a vegetable garden. The residents were recent college graduates interested in developing sustainable water filtration systems. I stared with great envy at that stack of bathtubs and was reminded of how much there was to learn about the world around me. I wanted to make my own experiments to explore and test. I had been working full-time as a waitress, and I knew that continuing my current lifestyle would not get me where I wanted to be. Something had to change, and it needed to change soon.

So I went back to school.

 

Throughout my time in academia, I have had many great mentors to guide me. Early on in my undergraduate studies, I was taught to appreciate the hard work we had all individually achieved to get where we are. I was also taught that every voice in the group matters. It helped to create an incredible sense of belonging, and from that, freedom. It was during an REU that I realized my research brought satisfaction to my life that I didn't know how to get any other way. The freedom to ask questions, and pursue answers propelled me into my work. I was encouraged to ask questions from an early age, and this was a natural way of life to me. In turn, when I am asked questions, I see it as a possibility to reflect on what I think I know, no matter how simple. I firmly believe we should stay away from telling others "you should know that", and instead, focus on constructive ways to bring everyone up together.

In my current research, I am fascinated by the duality called holography out of string theory. It offers such an incredible perspective on gravity. When I was in middle school, I remember when I first learned that muons can travel into the future. I had to know more. That led me to books by Stephen Hawking that were so inviting, and I became hooked on the curvature of spacetime. Holography adds so much more to this story. 

 

I have always enjoyed mathematics. The way of thinking laid out by mathematicians is incredibly beautiful. I often find daily common aspects of life to be difficult to traverse as there is no real rulebook on how to live one's life. The structure of say, how to define a manifold, provides me an outlet to a more structured sense of the world. And applying these concepts to physics, so that we may understand how the world works, is such a natural thing to do.

Right now, I am looking at condensed matter applications of holography which, in essence, allow us to relate concepts that have been found through studying string theory to materials with industrial applications. I find this work incredibly inspiring, and I am continuing to learn more about it.

When I'm not doing physics, you might find me practicing Iyengar Yoga, playing fantasy turn-based RPGs, or reading science fiction.

Thank you for visiting our site. I hope you find something interesting!

Contact: blauvelt@lehigh.edu

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