Observatory hero

Learning from the Best

Allyse Appel

Class of 2015
Major: Physics
Minor: Math
Hometown: Winter Springs, Fla.

Allie Appel ’15 was already a college freshman when a family friend suggested that Valpo would be a good place for her to study physics. Intrigued by what she learned, Allie decided to transfer schools. What she found at Valpo was “a physics department unlike anywhere else.”

Though the courses were demanding, Allie says that Valpo’s professors showed an obvious passion for teaching. She mentions Associate Professor Andrew Richter, Ph.D., who infused his lectures with relevant vacation photos and stories about his son.

She says Richter also helped her find the inherent pleasure in understanding, say, quantum physics.

“He encourages students to figure things out on their own,” she says. “Once they get the sweet satisfaction of realizing that their two hours of homework was time well-spent, they look forward to the countless hours to come.”

Classes like Richter’s laid the foundation for Appel to be successful in research experiences as well. After her sophomore year, she was hired as a research assistant to Professor of Astronomy Bruce Hrivnak, Ph.D. She spent the summer photographing proto-planetary nebulae, as part of Professor Hrivnak’s 25-year research project about that type of star. For that position, she learned how to operate Valpo’s observatory on her own, and even got her own key to the facility.

Allie says that the research project will one day change the content of science textbooks — and that Professor Hrivnak used it as an opportunity to further her development as a scientist.

“His work and research is powerful and globally recognized, though you’d never know it by merely meeting him or having him as a professor,” she says. “He has not only been my professor and boss, but now my mentor, who I am honored to have the chance to work with so closely. This has opened the door for future research positions and has been an overall wonderful experience.”

Allie plans to go to graduate school, but for now she is enjoying the opportunities that remain during her college career.

“I am still loving it just as much as my first day!” she says.