St. Olaf College | News

Three St. Olaf students receive Rossing Physics Scholarships

St. Olaf students (from left) Lily Nestor '23, Joshua Cameron '23, and Elizabeth Leeser '23 have been named Rossing Physics Scholars for 2022–23.  
St. Olaf students (from left) Lily Nestor ’23, Joshua Cameron ’23, and Elizabeth Leeser ’23 have been named Rossing Physics Scholars for 2022–23.

Three St. Olaf College students have been named Rossing Physics Scholars for 2022–23, an honor that recognizes exemplary students in physics at colleges and universities in the U.S. affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).  

Joshua Cameron ’23 and Lily Nestor ’23 will each receive a $10,000 award from the Thomas D. Rossing Fund for Physics Education. Elizabeth Leeser ’23 will receive a $5,000 scholarship. 

The awards are given annually to outstanding physics students selected from across the nation.

All three St. Olaf recipients are majoring in physics. Cameron and Nestor are also majoring in mathematics, and Leeser has concentrations in engineering and race and ethnic studies. Nestor has a management studies concentration. 

Josh Cameron ’23
Cameron conducted research last summer through St. Olaf’s Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) program with Assistant Professor of Physics and Director of Engineering Studies Alden Adolph. As part of that project, he studied snow’s optical properties in the context of its climatological impact. He is continuing to work in Adolph’s lab this academic year. Cameron has presented his research at the Western Snow Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, to U.S. Congressional staff at the Council for Undergraduate Research’s Posters on the Hill event, and at St. Olaf’s Honors Day Symposium. He will travel to Switzerland this summer to work with the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research). For this project, he will work on upgrading the muon chambers of the CMS detector. 

On campus, Cameron plays percussion in the St. Olaf Band, St. Olaf Orchestra, and Percussion Ensemble. He also works at the Circulation Desk in Rolvaag Memorial Library. After graduation, he intends to pursue a graduate degree in either physics or engineering.

Lily Nestor ’23
Nestor also participated in CURI last summer, working with Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Physics Anne Gothmann to research cathodoluminescence of diagenetic alteration in fossil coral. For this project, Nestor operated a scanning electron microscope to image fossil corals ranging from 15 million to 100 million years old to look at alterations in their skeleton structure and chemical composition. She continued working with Gothmann through this January. Nestor says she enjoyed combining physics and environmental studies to work in an interdisciplinary field and learned a lot from operating such complex machinery. 

Nestor has presented her research at three local symposiums and has participated in the Midstates Consortium for Math and Science Undergraduate Research Symposium hosted by the University of Chicago.

This summer Nestor will be a reliability engineering intern in the manufacturing division at 3M. At St. Olaf, she is also an executive officer for the Society of Women in Physics and is involved in the Collegiate Chorale and Blue Key Honor Society. In addition, Nestor works as a teacher’s assistant (TA) and tutor for the St. Olaf Physics Department, where she is highly involved in physics outreach. Following graduation, Nestor plans to attend graduate school and aspires to work in either aerospace engineering or a related industry. 

Elizabeth Leeser ’23
Leeser worked alongside St. Olaf Professor Emerita of Physics Amy Kolan on an independent project examining the motion of a simple rotating system, with the goal of developing an equation of motions for that system. “We were looking at pedagogical resources of how to make research like this accessible and how to improve video analysis methods to study things like this so they could be pretty doable in the time of COVID,” Leeser says.

Last summer she participated in a CURI project with Assistant Professor of Physics Prabal Adhikari, working on a theory project studying the angular momentum of magnetic vortices using field theory. This project has continued throughout fall 2021 and into spring 2022 as a Directed Undergraduate Research (DUR) course.

Leeser also works at the St. Olaf IT desk and at physics clinics. She is an active member of Veselica, TEAM-UP, and the Society of Women in Physics. This summer she will be an engineering intern at Consulting Engineers Group in Lakeville, Minnesota.

Leeser plans to work for a couple of years after graduation and then potentially attend graduate school for physics or engineering. 

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.