Studying Small, Serving Large

Armed with a resume that included impressive undergraduate science research, Kathy Hoogeboom-Pot, ’08, chose not to attend graduate school immediately.

Instead, she and her husband Justin Pot, ’07, headed to Louisiana and Texas for a year to do hurricane-damage reconstruction and assessment for World Renew, a development nonprofit connected to the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

The two had met prior to attending Calvin on a service-learning project.

“I enjoy building things and directly helping people,” she said. “It was also different being on a disaster relief team with people much older than me.

“There were interesting cultural differences. I was used to building, while my husband was not—but he had a go at the construction site as well,” she added.

After serving with World Renew, Hoogeboom-Pot chose the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU) for her Ph.D. work and joined a research group there.

“My research experience at Calvin made this possible,” she said. “At a large university you don’t usually get significant research experience as an undergraduate. You do at Calvin.”

Hoogeboom-Pot was initially fascinated by the research she was doing with Calvin professor Larry Molnar. She observed the rotation periods of asteroids, mapping patterns and characteristics.

“I found that doing research in front of a computer is not for me,” she said, “so I moved into hands-on experiments involving lasers. We slowed down krypton atoms and then observed them as they absorbed laser light.”

That work was done with Calvin physics professor Matt Walhout.

At Calvin, she grew to enjoy research work done with lasers. At CU, she’s directed that interest  and skill into the study of small things—or “nanoscale knowledge.”

“My work delves into the question, ‘Why do very small systems behave differently than larger ones?’”

Hoogeboom-Pot won an award from the National Science Foundation for a video she produced titled “Nanoscale knowledge: How small is different.”

She plans to receive her Ph.D. in physics in May 2015. She is not sure of the next move yet, but she said she “wants to keep doing research that leads to new knowledge.” Her expertise may lead to industrial research or laboratory efforts. She is already collaborating with semiconductor companies.

“I like to see how things work,” she said.

For Hoogeboom-Pot, the intersection of faith and science has been a seamless endeavor.

“I see what I do as studying more of creation, and it has been strengthening to my faith,” she said. “When I understand something better, I am understanding how God did it—the inner working of his design.”

Living in the Boulder area has given Kathy and Justin another avenue to serve, especially after the devastating floods of September 2013. “The course of an entire watershed was changed,” she said.

Kathy and Justin are members of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, where Kathy also coordinated housing for relief volunteers.

Justin is the managing editor of MakeUseOf.com, a site that covers tech-related topics.

“There seems to be a lot of opportunity for us,” she said. “But we want to do the right thing, not just some thing.”

View Hoogeboom-Pot’s three-minute video on nanoscale knowledge.

About the Author

 

Michael Van Denend, Calvin College

X