Olga, please tell us a bit about your experiments here at Fermilab.
I've been at Fermilab for a year and a half. Part of my role in working with the CDF experiment is seeking to improve resolution for jets. We are working on issues concerning calibration of the calorimeters and energy measurements of the jets.
Did you always plan to study science? What influenced you?
No, when I was young I wanted to be an actress. I studied music in high school and thought of being a concert pianist. While in high school I got an offer to go to TAMS, the Texas Academy for Math and Science, on the campus of University of North Texas. It is a residential magnet school for math and science and we took university classes early in calculus, physics and biology. I had a chemistry teacher who gave a lecture about modern physics. I don't come from a scientific family, but my dad did read "this Hawking guy." I also had the opportunity to attend a program called "Clark Scholars" which was held at Texas Tech University which is where I met my advisor, Richard Wigmans. Once I started exploring modern physics, I was hooked.
Where did you study to become a Fermilab scientist?
I attended MIT as an undergraduate in physics. Then I returned to Texas Tech University.
How have you been involved in education and what have you learned?
I tutored at Texas Tech and while a TA I loved teaching labs. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed being able to explain something to someone and that moment when you see that they "get it" is very satisfying. I think to be a good teacher takes a lot of time. Not only is it important to create interesting lessons but you have to take the time to be with the kids, sometimes just talking too. I see both the dedicated teachers and the teachers who are there from 8:00-2:00. I don't know how they last. A dedicated teacher has as much devotion and spends as much energy in a full-time position as in any scientific position. It takes a lot of energy and enthusiasm. As a girl in science I always received a lot of encouragement and never experienced barriers.
What advice would you give to students?
For high school students deciding on colleges, I would strongly recommend that they consider small liberal arts schools that focus on teaching at the undergraduate level. In high school and undergraduate, you have to learn the basics, mechanics, electromagnetism, but you should keep in mind that that's only the beginning of physics. Stick through it and be aware that that's not all there is.
Please share a little about yourself, such as your hobbies, family, etc.
I met my husband while I was an undergraduate at MIT. He's a high school physics teacher in Chicago. I love to read and watch movies. I go to the Fermilab gym a lot and have always loved ballet and modern dance.