Plunk Takes a Northwestern Direction

Plunk Takes a Northwestern Direction

Amelia Plunk

As a standout PhD student in Northwestern University's materials science program, Amelia Plunk always knew science liked her. But after two unfulfilling years working in labs, she was beginning to wonder how much she liked science.

“I wasn’t getting into the research,” Plunk recalled of those years, beginning in 2012. “I was generally miserable, and I felt like I had lost direction in where I wanted to go.”

Then she started a gig as a teaching assistant and found she preferred the classroom to the laboratory.

“All of a sudden, life was so much better,” said Plunk, who enjoyed running workshops and homework sessions. “What I really love is sharing science, and helping people come up with their own answers and understanding.”

With the help of a supportive materials science adviser, Plunk decided in 2015 to make the switch to SESP’s Master’s of Science in Education program, a move she said felt like “a coming-out process.”

Plunk, now a student teacher in the physics department of Evanston Township High School, felt the difference immediately.

“In the last six months, I’ve learned more about science than I did in a PhD program,” Plunk said. “I feel free to explore, as opposed to having to fit into a narrow set of PhD knowledge.”

She believes her current path will help make her a strong role model for girls as a “female physics person.” She hopes to teach honors physics at a high school somewhere in the Midwest.

“I always thought my only path was a PhD program,” said Plunk, who is on track to graduate this summer. “I’m so thankful I found another option.”

By Ellen Almer
Last Modified: 5/23/17