Undergrad Sara Sayer Reveals Research Experience

Fall 2021 BS Physics Graduate Sara Sayer
Fall 2021 BS Physics Graduate Sara Sayer

Youngsville, La. native and LSU physics major Sara Sayer shares her undergraduate research experience.

What sparked your initial interest in Physics? 

“I always found science and math to be the most interesting subjects and physics is a combination of both. I’ve also been fascinated by astronomy since a very young age.”

What do you like/love about LSU Physics & Astronomy? 

“There are so many great professors who are willing to help you succeed in classes or in research.”

What made you interested in focusing on a laser beam monitoring and stabilization system? 

“For my 2021 REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) at Kansas State University, I chose this project because it was focused on the coding and development side of laser research which is most applicable to astronomy.”

Check out Sara's Laser Beam Monitoring and Stabilization System REU project, mentored by Dr. Cosmin Blaga, Kansas State University Department of Physics

How is your research beneficial? 

“The program I developed at KSU will be implemented in their laser research lab, making sure the lasers are working properly for experiments as well as saving the department a lot of money by not having to purchase the software commercially.

For my research here at LSU, we are creating a catalogue of pulsation periods for a rare type of star known as R Coronae Borealis. With the pulsation periods, we can figure out the mass of the stars, with the goal of discovering how the stars were made.”

Are there any professors in particular that have acted as mentors during your academic journey? 

“Dr. Geoff Clayton has been my research mentor since I was a freshman in fall 2017. He has helped me tremendously, first by giving me the opportunity to be a research assistant. Over the years, he has taught me so much about research, astronomy, and life in general. Without him, I wouldn’t have been able to attend an REU or be about to publish my first research paper. I am truly grateful to him.”

How has your experience been as a research assistant?

 “I’m very lucky to have been able to have this job for 4 years, as it supports me financially while also training me for future careers in the field. The freedom to choose your own hours is also a bonus, but you have to have a strong personal work ethic in order to get things done since most of the time no one is standing over your shoulder watching you. We had weekly meetings to discuss progress and ask questions and over time, my communication and collaboration skills greatly improved.”

Have there been any resources at the Department of Physics and Astronomy that you have taken advantage of or wished you took advantage of? 

“The physics library is a great place to hang out or get homework done. I’ve also been to a few Astronomy on Taps and they were always fun and informative.”

What kept you motivated while pursuing your degree?

"Majoring in physics is a very challenging pursuit and you will be required to spend a lot of time studying, doing homework, and going to labs. Personally, my research job kept me motivated–I really enjoyed it and I knew that the only way to have a job like this in the future was to get my degree.”

Dream career path or profession? 

“I definitely want to have a job involving coding. Whether that’s a research position, or a full-time software engineer, I’m not sure yet. I enjoy working with numbers and visualizing data which is why I’ve decided to pursue data science.”

Any graduation plans? Graduate school, entering the workforce? 

“I plan to get a Master’s in Data Science within the next 3 years.”


Article by Angel Willie

Digital Communications Student Worker, LSU Department of Physics & Astronomy

Senior, LSU Manship School of Mass Communications