Alum Lands Internship at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

After her freshman year in the Honors Program at UC Santa Cruz, physics major Maya Silverman ('15) landed an internship at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a pre­mier hub of global scientific innova­tion that has trained thousands of promising science and engineering students. The nine-week summer program included about 70 other interns, undergraduate and graduate students, and Maya worked most intimately with a research team of three students and three scientists. Her concentration: Accelerated Tech­nology and Applied Physics, specifi­cally focusing on projects related to intense short-pulse ion beams. We caught up with Maya over the holiday break. She talked about her research, future studies, and science classes at SF Waldorf High School.

Tell us about the focus of your internship.

The overall goal was to gather infor­mation for use in fusion and plasma physics experiments. Our particular research focused on how ion beams generated by an ion accelerator interact with other materials, spe­cifically thin metal foils. There are many aspects of this project, and one that I was able to explore was a device in the accelerator called the Fast Faraday Cup. By calibrating the cup design – the alignment of the plates and holes – we could study and measure the beam current and the quantity of the ions to help achieve maximum energy intensity and precision.

Describe your workplace and your days in the lab.

The lab itself has a large, straight accelerator about 30 feet long with a smaller end chamber for measuring devices (such as the Fast Faraday Cup). My days included machine test-runs (for maximizing the energy and focus of the beams), investi­gating specific devices, and project team meetings. I would also write up results and present a weekly report to my supervisor. Since the Berkeley Lab itself is huge and covers many scientific disciplines, I was able to meet other researchers from other fields during lunch and other breaks. The end-result was a research paper and poster, which we presented at a final conference. I was glad to have Dr. Carini, my high school physics teacher, attend the conference.

How was your transition to college?

I felt prepared and fortunate to have had all the science blocks through my high school years. Senior year I also took Modern Physics and AP Calcu­lus. In college, I was able to apply the skills of scientific observation I learned in Dr. Carini's classes to my understanding of new concepts, whereas some students relied more heavily on the formulas they had memorized in high school. Many of my college classmates also look back at high school as a stressful time. For me, high school was challenging and balanced, but not high-pressure.

Tell us about your studies and interests at UC Santa Cruz.

I am currently majoring in physics and considering a change to astro­physics. I am part of an astrophysics research group that gets to work with one of the Lick Telescopes, which are located near San Jose and part of the University of California system. I also enjoyed a writing class in which I did a research paper on women in physics and ways to break down the historical barriers of entry into the field.

I am now preparing for a semester at the Technical University in Berlin, leaving in the spring. The program is organized through the UC system. I took advantage of the high school's study abroad program and lived in Bonn, Germany after my sophomore year, and have kept up my German studies ever since.