In April, Kendra Gillis and Logan Carpenter, two BYU-I students studying physics, went on a research trip with Montana State University to Poker Flat, Alaska, to test an aurora detector they created the previous summer.
Gillis, a junior studying physics, said out-of-state research trips, expeditions and internships are all beneficial for BYU-I students because they give students the opportunity to see how different environments provide different methods of achieving their goals.
Aurora lights are not easily visible to the human eye, according to the official website of the Space Weather Prediction Center.
Gillis said they built a device which was designed to detect auroras, and it needed to be tested in Alaska.
Gillis said she enjoyed spending time outside of her home state to study the aurora lights. She said she highly recommended serving in out-of-state positional studies and internships.
“It’s important to see how facilities differ from one another, even if it’s just a few states away,” Gillis said. “It was an honor to work in a nationally acclaimed base like Poker Flat with a device we had created.”
Gillis said the auroras were the highlight of this trip. She said the lights were absolutely breathtaking.
Carpenter, a junior studying physics, said he felt comfortable being in an accepting environment. He said that not only was this trip mentally rewarding, it was spiritually rewarding as well.
“I felt like I belonged there.” Carpenter said. “We were able to talk about the gospel several times during the trip.”
Carpenter said working with these other physics students and professors was a treat.
“Everyone was polite and open to hear the gospel, which made the experience more enjoyable,” Carpenter said.
Gillis said scientists are open to different opinions and treat one another in a unique way.
“It’s hard to put into words, but there are ways scientists treat each other which make it feel like it’s almost a culture unto itself,” Gillis said.
Gillis said she felt welcomed because everyone was friendly and casual.
“I would encourage others to participate in out-of-state research and internship opportunities,” Carpenter said. “I made a lot of friends, had a ton of missionary opportunities with various students from other locations and have a better idea of what direction I want to go in for graduate school.”
Carpenter said it was nice to reestablish himself in a new place, explore the area and meet new people.
“We still keep in contact via a group chat, which has been really fun,” Carpenter said.
Gillis said the students were able to attend various seminars and presentations during the trip.
“During the day, we acted like tourists,” Gillis added. “We did a lot of sightseeing– including Denali National Park, downtown Fairbanks and the University of Alaska.”
Gillis said they were also given the unusual privilege of a tour of the Poker Flat Rocket Range.
“The opportunities you can receive from taking an out-of-state trip like this one are endless,” Carpenter said. “The research trip was also paid, so there weren’t any financial stress factors during this trip.”
“It all comes down to being at the right place at the right time,” Carpenter said. “I was involved in the activities, colloquium, and get-togethers; by doing this, I knew ahead of time about internship opportunities.”
Both, Carpenter and Gillis said they had never seen an aurora light before this trip and would have most likely never seen an Aurora light if it weren’t for the experience in Alaska they were given.