St. Olaf College | News

Two St. Olaf students named Rossing Physics Scholars

Two St. Olaf College students have been named Rossing Physics Scholars for 2019–20.

Siri Mellem ’21 will receive a $10,000 award and Jiayi Wang ’21 will receive a $5,000 award from the Thomas D. Rossing Fund for Physics Education.

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

Both Mellem and Wang are majoring in physics, mathematics, and music at St. Olaf.

Portrait of Siri Mellem '21
Siri Mellem ’21 will receive a $10,000 award from the Thomas D. Rossing Fund for Physics Education.

Mellem worked on a research project in the summer of 2018 at the University of Michigan-Dearborn that applied algebraic music theory to a Schubert Piano Sonata. Her primary instrument as a music major is piano, but she also plays viola in the St. Olaf Orchestra and is a member of the St. Olaf Handbells Choir. In her free time, she enjoys rock-climbing. She plans to become a high school physics teacher near her hometown of Seattle.

Wang  worked alongside St. Olaf Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Physics Anne Gothmann to research using corals as climate proxies. “The goal of this research is to calibrate how the isotope composition of corals reflects that of the seawater in which the corals grow,” Wang says.

Portrait of Jiayi Wang '21
Jiayi Wang ’21 will receive a $5,000 award from the Thomas D. Rossing Fund for Physics Education.

In the fall of 2018, she went on a piano tour with eight St. Olaf students to perform Nordic solo piano works at venues in Minnesota, California, Ohio, Arizona, and Colorado. She has been a member of the Collegiate Chorale for the last three semesters, and does collaborative work for juries and recitals as a pianist. She has also been part of the college’s math problem-solving group.

Wang plans to pursue a Ph.D in physics or interdisciplinary fields that physics can contribute to. She’s taken an interest in earth science, quantum theory, astronomy, and cosmology. She hopes to eventually become a professor.

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.