St. Olaf College | News

Two St. Olaf students named Rossing Physics Scholars

Ana Colliton '25 (left) and Mikael Maritz '25 (right) each received a $10,000 scholarship from the Thomas D. Rossing Fund for Physics Education.
Ana Colliton ’25 (left) and Mikael Maritz ’25 (right) each received a $10,000 scholarship from the Thomas D. Rossing Fund for Physics Education.

St. Olaf College students Ana Colliton ’25 and Mikael Maritz ’25 have been named Rossing Physics Scholars for 2024–25.

The honor recognizes exemplary students in physics at colleges and universities in the U.S. affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). As part of the award, Colliton and Maritz each received a $10,000 scholarship from the Thomas D. Rossing Fund for Physics Education.

Colliton is majoring in physics and mathematics, with a concentration in engineering studies. She also enjoys taking chemistry courses, and has sought research projects that blend physics and chemistry.

For the last two years, Colliton has conducted research in Professor of Physics Brian Borovsky’s tribology (friction) lab, investigating the frictional properties of nano-meter scale interfaces. This spring the team published a paper that she co-authored in the academic journal Small titled “Why is Superlubricity of Diamond-Like Carbon Rare at Nanoscale?” Colliton also presented research from the lab at the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers annual conferences in Long Beach, California, and Minneapolis. 

“This experience is nice because it brings the physics and fun parts of chemistry together to form my interest in materials science as a possible career path,” she says.

Last summer Colliton participated in a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program at Dartmouth College’s Thayer School of Engineering. As a member of Assistant Professor of Engineering Mattias Fitzpatrick’s lab, she investigated decoherence in modern quantum computers caused by two-level systems in constituent materials.

“That summer grew my interest in materials science, but also introduced the quantum research field to me,” she says. 

Her exploration of the intersection of physics and chemistry continues this summer through an REU program at Purdue University, where Colliton is working in Assistant Professor of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Mike Reppert’s lab. Her project is focused on two-dimensional acoustic spectroscopy.

“What I like about this lab is that it allows me to explore work on a physics-based project as well as getting to work alongside grad students doing wet lab work like extracting chlorophyll from spinach,” she says. 

On campus, Colliton is the president of St. Olaf’s Society of Women in Physics and Engineering (SWiPE), serves on the leadership team for the Green Bandana Project that promotes resources to support mental health, is a physics tutor through the Academic Success Center, and works as a teaching assistant for physics courses. She was selected as a TRIO McNair Scholar and is part of the TRIO Student Support Services for Students with Disabilities (SSSD) Program. “SSSD has helped me learn to advocate for myself inside and outside the classroom setting, and TRIO McNair has also provided me with a robust support system to explore my graduate school goals,” she says. After graduation, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in materials science.

Maritz is majoring in physics with a concentration in engineering studies.

After his first year at St. Olaf, he was named a Weber Summer Scholar by the college’s Institute for Freedom and Community. His independent research as part of that program focused on the impact that Western colonialism has had on the discipline of physics, and he wrote a paper titled “Decolonizing Physics: Between Theory and Praxis.” He presented his paper at St. Olaf’s inaugural Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Symposium and hosted a roundtable discussion about how to make physics at the college more inclusive. 

The following summer he interned at Consulting Engineers Group, where he researched the degradation of batteries and developed a tool to model the lifetime degradation of utility-scale batteries given relevant operating conditions. He interned there again the following J-Term, this time as a data visualization intern.

“This internship has carried over to this summer, where I am working on developing battery dispatch logic for Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) to participate competitively in the wholesale energy markets of the organizations that oversee the electric power systems in California and Texas,” Maritz says.

During this past academic year, Maritz also had the opportunity to conduct research on coral biomineralization with Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Physics Anne Gothmann. He contributed to writing a grant proposal that her research team received. 

Maritz also works as a resident assistant (RA) and is a member of the St. Olaf Broadcast Media Services team that streams hundreds of events on campus each year.

“After graduation, I plan on applying for the Rhodes and the Mandela Rhodes scholarships for pursuing a graduate degree in material science and postcolonial literature, respectively,” Maritz says. “In addition, I will be looking at various graduate programs that focus on renewable energy technology or energy management on the national grid scale. Eventually, I would like to get a graduate internship at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.”

Both Maritz and Colliton have been part of St. Olaf’s Physics Department’s TEAM-UP initiative, which works to foster students’ sense of belonging, develop their identity as physicists, and strengthen connections between students, faculty, and staff.

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.