Women in Math and Science

Jemima Fernandez '06

Jemima Fernandez

Jemima Fernandez '06

Major: Physics
Minor: Gender and Women's Studies
Hometown: North Hollywood, CA

What made you decide to come to Bowdoin all the way from California?
I visited here as a prospective student and the small campus was very different from Los Angeles. The East Coast was like a different country to me: the architecture changed, people are friendlier in Maine, and nature provides a visible change of seasons. I like being exposed to new things, and at Bowdoin I was introduced to people who grew up in different environments than I did, which exposes me to different ways of thinking and looking at life. So, Bowdoin has not only benefited me academically, but also socially. I definitely donít regret it; itís been a good experience.

I figured that I could talk to professors more easily at a small school. I had that experience in high school, even though I went to a really big school. They have a magnet program for honors kids in my high school and we got to talk to our teachers a lot more easily because we had the same teachers for different subjects.

When did you know that you wanted to be a physics major?
I actually knew that in high school; I was already leaning toward it freshman year, before taking any physics classes. I always knew that I wanted to do engineering and then when I took physics in high school, physics became a definite thing also. I really liked the challenge of the subject and the rewards of knowing how everything works. And, a teacher in high school tried to discourage me a little; I think it was his way of reverse psychology, to motivate me by saying that I couldnít do it. It worked!

Iím also a gender and womenís studies minor. I am a feminist, not the type that burns bras and hates men, but I believe in equal rights and respects for all human beings, regardless of gender, race, and class.

Did you have any other early influences?
As a child I was very curious, as I still am. I liked knowing why things behave in a certain way, such as how fast rain drops fall. My family has been a great influence on me and my interest in engineering. My dad and grandfather would always let me help repair things, like radios at home, my electronic dolls, and even household things such as cabinets and beds. This hands-on experience growing up and my curiosity and hunger for knowledge led me to love sciences, especially if they involved lab work.

Whatís the best part of the subject?
It is definitely understanding the world. And I really love the lab work, the idea of actually understanding something because you know how it works. When I did work with electronics last semester for a Modern Electronics class, we actually had to build our own projects. I built a voice encoder-decoder. It basically took a voice and then jumbled it by changing the frequency of it, and then decoded it back. That experience was really cool.

Are you doing any independent studies?
Next semester I plan to do an independent study with the swim team. Iím not sure about the details of it, but it will involve improving the strokes of the swimmers. It will be an ongoing project to build an instrument to measure the velocity and force of the swimmer. This will ultimately help the swimmers improve their technique.

Do you know what you want to do after graduation, and later on in your field?
I want to do engineering, specifically electrical engineering, so I definitely want to go to graduate school. I want to eventually be able to work for NASA and work with building space shuttles.

What do you like about the Physics Department?
We have a chapter of the Society of Physics Students on campus. We have meetings and talk about physics-oriented things. Quite a few times weíve gone down to Boston for an American Physical Society Meeting, so you get to actually see what people are doing for research. And it helps you really meet the professors. I like that you can actually go up to your professors and talk to them. When weíre having meetings they come over, and we do barbeques, so we get to know them personally. It makes it easier to go talk to them outside of class.

What do you like to do for fun?
I love dancing so I love going out to JAX. I also love rugby. It was introduced to me at Bowdoin. I never believed the coaches when they said that you donít need experience to play it, but you go in and you donít know anything about rugby (Iíd never even seen a game), and then itís so much fun Ė you get to tackle people! And itís just a big camaraderie between not only our team but also the teams that we play, because we get to hang out with them after the game, which is kind of fun.

Whatís your favorite thing about Bowdoin?
I really like the tight-knit community; you build very close friendships. And, you feel like you know everybody on campus, itís like a community. The ďBowdoin BubbleĒ can be very comforting sometimes. Itís nice to be away from home and be in a different sort of family where it doesnít feel like people are judging you.

Story posted on March 09, 2006

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