Jeanne Garriz Shares LaSPACE Experience

Jeanne Garriz, LSU Undergraduate Physics Major
Jeanne Garriz, LSU Undergraduate Physics Major
Olivia Crowell

LSU undergraduate physics major Jeanne Garriz shares her research experience.

What attracted you to pursue a degree in science?

I love learning about the natural world and learning new things, so getting a degree in science is a good way pursue that interest in a meaningful way. 

What led you to choose to major in physics?

I got very interested in astronomy in high school from watching documentaries and reading books about astronomy. Once I started looking at colleges, I found out that the best way to have a career in astronomy was by majoring in physics. I also found out that physics is a very versatile major even if I didn’t end up wanting to pursue astronomy research in the future. This appealed to me because when I was deciding what I wanted my major to be I wasn’t completely sure of what I wanted to end up doing for my career.

Did you always have a love for science?

I’ve always loved science. It was always my favorite subject in elementary and high school, no matter if we were learning biology, chemistry, or physics. Science in general is so fascinating to me because of the advancements in knowledge and technology we can make just by systematically observing the natural world. 

You are from Alabama. Why did you select LSU to pursue your bachelor’s degree?

I selected LSU because the LSU physics department was larger and had more research opportunities in more varied areas of physics than any of the schools I had looked at in Alabama. I also just really liked LSU’s campus better than any of the other campuses I visited. 

What do you like most about LSU?

I like that LSU is a large research institution, and as a result there are a lot of different opportunities for undergraduates to get involved in research. This is a very important feature for an undergraduate university to have if one wants to pursue a graduate degree. 

What is your area of research?   

I’m currently working in a few areas of research. I’ve been part of two student ballooning programs funded by the Louisiana Space Grant. These projects were both focused on using a student designed payload to collect data in the upper atmosphere. The first payload I worked on (Student Payload for Ultraviolet Detection or “SPUD”) was a small payload used to observe the UV spectrum with altitude. The second payload (Calculating Orientation and Measuring Pointing Angle for Scientific Systems or “COMPASS”) is designed to determine the orientation of a balloon payload in space. I’m also currently working on my senior thesis in nuclear physics with Dr. Deibel, where I am working to refurbish a focal plane blocker for a split-pole spectrograph. 

What are the larger implications of this research?

The results of COMPASS could potentially be used to determine the orientation of other balloon payloads on future flights if the data analysis is successful. COMPASS also included an array of cameras used to image the Sun, and this kind of system could be useful for an eclipse balloon payload. The results of the COMPASS data in the context of potential eclipse ballooning experiments will be presented at the AGU Fall Meeting in December 2021. As for my senior thesis research, the blocker I am working on will be used to block high-intensity reaction products from nuclear reactions. It will then be installed at the Enge split pole spectrograph at Florida State University, and this will contribute to the spectrograph being fully functional again. 

What made you interested in joining the student ballooning program?

I became interested in the student ballooning program when my friend sent me the informational flyer about it and I saw the kinds of skills that I would learn such as soldering, electronics assembly, and microcontroller programming. Since she was joining and I wanted to get more research experience, I joined as well. 

How have you balanced your research priorities with your other activities?

It’s definitely difficult to balance research, school, and my mental health, but I try to balance everything by recognizing when I need breaks. If continuing to work on a problem is not productive anymore, I make myself take a break so I can refocus on the problem later. I also try to make very general weekly plans for myself so that I don’t forget to set aside time for everything I need to accomplish during the week. 

You will be presenting ‘A Compact, Low-Cost Balloon Flight Attitude Orientation System’ at the AGU Conference in New Orleans, What do you look to gain from the Conference experience?

I hope to learn more about how research is presented, and I hope to learn about the other types of research going on in non-space science fields. I also would like to be able to gain experience talking and networking with other people involved in academia at other institutions. 

Do you have any faculty mentors? If so, how have they helped you along your academic journey? 

Dr. Guzik has been my faculty mentor for the student ballooning program for the past three years. He has helped me on my academic and research journey by always pushing me to do my best work and to never settle for anything less. He has also helped my team by guiding our research and keeping us focused on the end goal of our projects. Aaron Ryan also works with the ballooning group at LSU, and he has always been very patient in helping my team and me with a lot of the technical aspects of our ballooning projects. Dr. Deibel is my faculty mentor for my thesis research, and she has helped me get started with this project over this semester. She has also given me a lot of very valuable advice for applying to graduate schools. I’m very grateful to all of my faculty mentors for their time and support in my academic journey. 

What are your future/long-term plans? (career, academic goals) 

I’m currently in the process of applying to physics PhD programs. After (hopefully) getting a PhD, I would love to continue doing research as either faculty at a university or staff at a national lab. 


Contact: Mimi LaValle

LSU Physics & Astronomy