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2015 NSF Graduate Research Fellow Elizabeth Berrigan

Berrigan
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Elizabeth Berrigan

Elizabeth Berrigan

Grad program: Physics, Astronomy
Undergrad: BA in Biochemistry, Physics, Chapman University
Hometown: Nashua, NH
Advisor: Chris Herzog

How does it feel to earn an NSF GRF?
It is a huge relief to be awarded this fellowship. It is very nice to be supported and recognized for so much hard work.

What will you research and how might it benefit the world?
Every scientist probably has a different idea of what is most fundamental, but mine involves interactions at the quantum level, the nature of space-time and entropy. Despite the predictive power of quantum mechanics, we still lack a perspective to understand its distinctive characteristic, entanglement. Understanding entanglement could lead to the discovery of new phases of matter, and could be the missing ingredient for a theory of quantum gravity. Moreover, since the entanglement determines the decoherence of a system, my findings may even enable a much-needed perspective for the theory of measurement in quantum mechanics, with applications in quantum computation.

What sparked your interest in your research, or science in general?
From an early age, I escaped into nature and science. At 17, I drove myself across the country to Chapman University in Orange, California to study biochemistry and physics. After working there and at MIT on projects in biochemistry, computational biology and biophysics, I learned that I prefer theoretical and computational research over experimental research. I think the patience and meticulousness required to deal with the complexity of the biological system have better prepared me for a career in science.
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