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Kalamazoo College

Michelle Sugimoto

Kentwood, MI
Applied Mathematics
Environmental Studies
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor:
Coffee chocolate chip
Best Adjective to Describe You:

In 15 words or less, why should a student want to be involved in this department?
Physics affords exciting views into worlds too small to see and too far to travel. 

What initially drew you to this department?  What keeps you coming back?
Originally, I was considering a chemistry major, which requires the introductory physics courses.  I had a lot of fun in those classes, so I continued.  Now, encouragement from my professors and the prospects of being part of sustainable change for the earth keep me coming back.

What’s your biggest piece of advice to first years and sophomores in this department?
My advice is to let go of stereotypes. Most of the time, we are presented with super genius, white, male physicists.  But physicists come in every shape and size.  And it's important to remember that working hard and struggling sometimes is ok.  

How does your department connect to your other interests and activities?
My main career goal is for my work to have an emphasis on sustainability.  My interest in environmentalism connects to physics through renewable energy.  I chose physics because I believe that it will prepare me for a variety of work even if I decide to change my approach to help our environment.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned at K?
Through big changes like high school and especially college, I learned a lot about how I adjust to new environments.  I’ve learned to be more comfortable with being unsure, knowing that that’ll change and I will be stronger and more adaptable in the end.

What has been your favorite class at K?  Why?
My favorite class at K so far has been American Environmental History.  I feel like I accomplished a lot in this class.  Also, it was really fascinating to gain a better understanding of my place within the environmental movement by learning the history of various “green” movements.

What is your SIP?
I did research for my SIP at the University of Texas at Dallas under the supervision of Dr. Yves Chabal.  I used infrared spectroscopy to characterize a low temperature, metallic state of ultra-thin ZnO films. This phenomenon is really interesting because usually metallic states can be created when semi-conductors are heated.  

What are your career aspirations/next steps after K?
I plan on attending graduate school for either physics or materials science.   I am interested in improving the efficiency of materials for renewable energy applications.

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