News & Stories

Madeline Clyburn
February 25, 2021

A Universe of Opportunities for Berry Physics Major

When Madeline Clyburn ’21 arrived at Berry, she was intent on pursuing a degree in art education. But an introductory physics course captured her imagination, and everything changed. She switched her major and will graduate with a bachelor of science in physics, a minor in math and a plan to pursue a Ph.D. in astrophysics. Madeline is currently considering offers from graduate programs.

At Berry, she found the support she needed to reach for the stars. “The physics faculty were amazing mentors who constantly challenged me and pushed me to my limits of understanding in a risk-free environment and allowed me to shake off my fears of failure and inability,” she says. “And my fellow classmates were always there to pick up my slack and provided avenues for me to help them where they lacked as well.”  

Long-term, Madeline sees herself working at a research facility such as NASA or the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) or perhaps teaching. She’s already tested the waters as a research intern at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. In May 2021, pandemic permitting, she hopes to complete the research internship she was granted at the Albert Einstein Institute last summer. Grateful for the unwavering support of Berry faculty, she says, “Without their push and recommendation letters, I would never have been able to have these amazing opportunities. The classes at Berry provided me with the skills and level of challenge I needed to do well in a research environment.”

In November of 2020, Madeline defended her senior Honors thesis, “Studying Lorentz Symmetry Violation with Pendulums and Binary Star Systems,” using a combination of theoretical, experimental, and computational research to demonstrate that the way scientists currently model modern physics could be inaccurate.

A determined scholar, Madeline has already published research in a physics journal and participated in five poster presentations. At the same time, she has embraced roles that have built transferable skills like leadership: “As a physics research assistant, I had to learn how to be independent and not rely on a professor’s constant instruction. As the general manager of the student-run Viking Tutoring Services, I had to learn how to lead a team and communicate well with many different people.”

Madeline adds she has become more confident, open-minded and mindful over the past four years: “Before Berry, I was very unsure of who I was and where I wanted to go in life, but with help from the amazing faculty, I was given direction and guidance that ultimately led me down the path towards success and happiness.”

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