Alumni Profile: Rebecca Roycroft ’09

We are always amazed to see the career path that our Bay Alums take after graduating from Bay. We recently checked in with Rebecca Roycroft from the Class of 2009 to she what she is up to and to find out how her time at Bay and the precepts help her in her work today.

After graduating from Bay in 2009, where did you attend college? How did you end up becoming a Physics Ph.D. student?

I started at UCLA in fall of 2009 and graduated in summer of 2013 with a degree in physics and a minor in classical civilization. I decided to major in physics during my first year at UCLA (I was also considering chemistry) and started working toward the minor in classical civilization towards the end of my second year. When I started college, I did not really know what I wanted to do with my degree in physics, but always knew that graduate school was an option. I started working in a research laboratory in my second year of college. When I joined the plasma physics research group at UCLA, I learned that physics research— specifically, plasma physics research—was something I wanted to pursue. With that in mind, I applied to graduate school, specifically to Ph.D. programs with strong research and curriculum in plasma physics. Here at UT Austin, I work at the Texas Petawatt Laser, studying laser plasma interactions and the behaviors of high-density plasmas. I am currently visiting Los Alamos National Laboratory and working on an experiment at the Trident Laser Facility there. I have also taken some courses in Latin to continue my studies of classical civilization.

Are there certain Bay precepts that you still feel particularly connected to?

One precept I always come back to is: “We value patience with ourselves and others; we don’t rush to judgment.” This precept is important to me both for personal and professional reasons. Scientists are urged to look at data in as objective a way as possible, and evaluate different explanations and ideas logically and thoroughly. It is important not to rush to judgment, because in rushing, details can be overlooked. In my research, there are often multiple hypotheses explaining the phenomena we observe, and we must try to be as accurate and thorough with our experiments as possible to test different theories. In my personal life, I find that taking the time to get to know other people and learning their perspective is important. I’ve found that patience and a willingness to learn and understand has been useful as I navigate the world and meet new people.

Do you still maintain relationships with students or teachers from Bay?

I do! I try to connect with fellow Bay alumni wherever I may find them. I love seeing what everyone is doing over social media and am so proud to be a part of the legacy of  the Class of 2009. Everyone is out there doing some seriously wonderful stuff. I also make a point of coming to the yearly open houses for alumni, because I love to see how Bay has changed since I graduated—and how it has stayed the same!

How did Bay prepare you for your college – both socially and academically?
I love how easy it was to pursue any and all of my interests at Bay—my intellectual curiosity was both stimulated and encouraged in all of the classes I took, including the math and science classes! I have some of the fondest memories working on a capstone project for analysis of functions in 11th grade, where I would take a notebook with me everywhere just in case I was inspired. I also appreciated the senior projects course, where I had the opportunity to work in a chemistry research lab during the summer before my senior year. Math and science were very exciting for me in high school and I truly felt like I could have a career in STEM if I kept working hard and being curious! Socially, Bay was a place where I felt I could be myself, and where I felt I could work on becoming my best self even if I made some mistakes along the way. The confidence and a strong sense of self that Bay helped me cultivate have served me well throughout the challenges of college and graduate school.