St. Olaf College | News

Five St. Olaf students named Rossing Physics Scholars

Five St. Olaf students have received Rossing Physics Scholarships, which recognize outstanding students in physics at colleges and universities in the U.S. affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Evan Strong ’22 and Rahaf Youssef ’22 will each receive a $10,000 scholarship from the Thomas D. Rossing Fund for Physics Education. Lars Ripley ’22, Samip Karki ’22, and Cecilia Dean ’23 will receive $5,000 scholarships. 

The awards are given each year to outstanding physics students selected from across the nation. This year, St. Olaf students were awarded half of the 10 scholarships available nationally. 

“Receiving five Rossing scholarships in one year is an extraordinary achievement,” says Professor of Physics and Department Chair Brian Borovsky. “We are excited and happy for our student winners. Their wide-ranging achievements and dedication are an inspiration. These remarkable students have shown their passion for physics as a field of study and for our department as a home and learning community for anyone who loves physics.”

All of the student recipients are majoring in physics and mathematics at St. Olaf. 

Portrait of Evan Strong in front of a tan background.
Evan Strong ’22

Evan Strong ’22
Strong complements his majors with a concentration in engineering studies at St. Olaf. He has conducted research in a directed undergraduate research (DUR) course with Borovsky, in which he studied friction experimentally at the micro-scale. He has also worked on two off-campus summer research projects at Georgetown University and the University of Minnesota. For these projects, he studied the physics of soft matter, both computationally and experimentally. He has presented his research at the Mid-Atlantic Soft Matter Workshop at Johns Hopkins University, the Midstates Consortium Undergraduate Research Symposium, and a fall 2020 St. Olaf physics colloquium.  

On campus, Strong is the vice president of the Society of Physics Students, a role in which he organizes mentoring opportunities. He also sings in the St. Olaf Choir, is on the executive board of the Gospel Choir, and is a co-coordinator for Ole Spring Relief (OSR). After graduation, Strong plans to participate in a volunteer service program before getting his Ph.D. in biophysics, material physics, or a related field. 


Portrait of Rahaf Youssef in front of a blue background.
Rahaf Youssef ’22

Rahaf Youssef ’22
Youssef has pursued several research internships on quantum computing over the last two years. She conducted research in the physics department at the University of Notre Dame, in which she compared random walks produced by quantum computers to those produced by classical computers. She also did experimental work related to solid-state physics concepts and tools. Youssef has also conducted research at the Fermi National Particle Accelerator Laboratory. At the laboratory, she interned with the QuantISED group as part of the Summer Internship in Science and Technology (SIST) program, studying noise models and benchmarking IBM’s qubits. This summer, she will work at the California Institute of Technology as part of their Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), where she will be a part of an experiment team working to combat noise in the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) experiment. Youssef has presented research at the SIST Research Symposium and St. Olaf’s physics colloquium. 

In addition to her research experiences, Youssef has served as Curriculum Senator on the Student Senate and is currently the president of the Society for Physics Students at St. Olaf (SPS). Under her leadership, SPS has emphasized building ties across cohort years and creating a greater sense of community and inclusivity throughout the physics program. She has also worked as a peer advisor at the Piper Center for Vocation and Career, writing tutor at the Writing Desk, Physics Clinic tutor, and physics teaching assistant. Following graduation, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in experimental quantum computing.

Portrait of Samip Karki with grass and trees in the background.
Samip Karki ’22

Samip Karki ’22
Karki has participated in several research projects during his time at St. Olaf. During summer 2020 and the 2020-21 academic year, he worked with Assistant Professor of Physics and Director of Engineering Studies Alden Adolph on research about snow albedo. At the end of the summer, he presented his research at the St. Olaf Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) closing symposium. He is currently working on creating a program that simulates the behavior of individual particles of light as they interact with grains of snow in a snow pack. This semester, Karki is conducting mathematics research in a DUR with Assistant Professor of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science David Walmsley. During summer 2021, Karki will conduct physics research at the University of Washington in Seattle in their physics Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program.

At St. Olaf, Karki plays trumpet with the St. Olaf Jazz Bands and volunteers his time with the Food Recovery Network, in which he makes meals for food shelves. After graduation, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in physics.

Portrait of Lars Ripley with a hill and an old building in the background with a city and sky beyond.
Lars Ripley ’22

Lars Ripley ’22
Ripley has conducted research with Borovsky on the fundamentals of friction and with Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics Eric Hazlett on laser spectroscopy. He presented his friction-related studies at the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE) Tribology Frontiers Conference in Chicago in 2019, where he and his research partner were recognized with the Undergraduate Poster Award. Last year, their results were published in the academic journal Tribology International, in an article co-authored with collaborators at Pennsylvania State University and Northwestern University.  

Outside of the classroom, Ripley competes with the St. Olaf men’s cross country and track and field teams. Following graduation, he plans to travel and attend graduate school. 

Portrait of Cecilia Dean with a creek, leaves and trees in the background.
Cecilia Dean ’23

Cecilia Dean ’23
Dean concentrates in environmental studies and engineering studies at St. Olaf. In her Modern Physics lab course, she has enjoyed recreating historical experiments like solving for Planck’s constant and observing energy quantization in different elements. She also completed an individual project during this past Interim for her Musical Acoustics course, in which she explored the ways that the size and shape of a room influence the harmonics and standing wave patterns present in the sounds experienced by a listener.

Dean is involved in a variety of student organizations on campus, including the Society of Women in Physics, the Society of Physics Students, Ole Ave Vocal Jazz, and Chapel Choir. After graduation, she aims to complete her master’s degree in engineering with the goal of becoming a renewable resources engineer. 

About the Rossing Scholarship
Gifts from Thomas Rossing established the Rossing Fund for Physics Education Endowment through the Foundation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 2005. The goals of the scholarship program are to encourage top students to attend one of the 27 ELCA colleges and universities in the country, and to consider pursuing physics once they are there. Rossing taught at St. Olaf for 14 years, is a professor emeritus of physics at Northern Illinois University, and is currently a visiting professor of music at Stanford University.