Q & A with Raven Witherspoon

raven witherspoon
Name: Raven Witherspoon
Major: Physics
Future goals: Complete graduate school and focus on either international conflict analysis and resolution or on health physics with a concentration in nuclear nonproliferation
Understanding physics will alter the way you interact with the world. It not only enhances your problem-solving abilities, it also opens the door to unlimited scientific possibilities.

When did you decide you wanted to study physics?

When I was in high school, I participated in a summer program at NASA Langley and quickly realized how much I love space. I thought physics would be a good way to get a broad understanding of relevant concepts as well as the technical skills and research experience to secure a job after graduation.

Did you have a favorite class in your major?

My favorite class in my major was Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics. Thermodynamics is fascinating because it's one of the few disciplines within physics that people completely unfamiliar with physics can still easily relate. Other concepts, like general relativity and Maxwell's equations seem daunting, but almost everyone understands the basic probabilities and heat concepts required to grasp thermodynamics.

Do you have a favorite professor in your department?

I’ve really enjoyed learning from Dr. Daeha Joung. Dr. Joung is so knowledgeable about quantum mechanics, yet in lecture he always views the material from the student’s perspective and anticipates what might cause confusion. He welcomes every question and is always patient even as we struggle with concepts we may have seen in other classes. His students are his top priority, and he puts so much effort into making class understandable and enjoyable.

Can you tell us about your internship experience?

I recently completed an internship in nuclear health physics at Dominion Energy's Surry Nuclear Power Station. I learned about reactor theory and contributed to projects that minimized radiological risk. It opened my eyes to the diversity of options available to physics students and ignited my passion for nuclear physics. It also led me to conduct research in VCU's Department of Nuclear Engineering under the direction of Dr. Braden Goddard. Our published research provided recommendations to reduce the possibility of hostile parties developing nuclear weapons.

Why should a student major in physics?

When I got to VCU, I realized that physics lays the groundwork for nearly every other discipline. It's foundational to the experiences of daily life but it also extends beyond our senses into the unseen. Understanding physics will alter the way you interact with the world. It not only enhances your problem-solving abilities, it also opens the door to unlimited scientific possibilities.