COSAM Senior to Inspire Young Students to Study Physics
Auburn University senior Pierce Jackson is fascinated by the universe. Raised by two pharmacists, Pierce assumed he would follow their footsteps into the medical field, but found a passion for learning more about space during high school.
“As I got more in-depth into astronomy I realized how much I loved it and how amazing and mind-boggling astronomy can be,” Pierce said. “The fact that you’re looking out in space to the rest of the universe … we’re just this tiny little dot in space. We’re just a tiny piece of this infinite universe and there’s so much to explore and the universe is so beyond us that it’s crazy. I think it’s important to understand our position in space.”
Pierce is currently pursuing a degree in physics through the College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM), with plans to pursue a graduate degree in astronomy and astrophysics after graduation. He is most interested in exoplanets, or the planets beyond our solar system.
“I’d like to study their habitability and whether they could potentially host life, if they’re in the star’s habitable zone, what their atmospheres are like, and the composition of the planets,” Pierce explained.
Pierce also hopes to inspire younger generations to find an interest in physics. As the president of the Auburn University Society of Physics Students, Pierce is currently working on plans to expose area high school students to physics.
“I think being able to show kids, especially underprivileged kids, fun experiments and letting them see how cool math and physics can be and inspire them is a wonderful thing,” he shared.
Pierce is also involved with the Auburn University Small Satellite Program, assisting in writing codes for the TRYAD satellite. When launched, which in planned to happen within the next year or so, the satellite will detect gamma-ray bursts in the upper atmosphere.
He is also involved in research with physics professor Dr. Stuart Loch and recently worked with Dr. Loch and Dr. Mike Fogle to investigate the impact on the light signatures from astrophysical objects when the simulations of these objects use experimentally measured atomic data. The research involved collaborating with a number of researchers outside of Auburn, with Pierce leading the collaboration. As a result of this work, Dr. Fogle is pursuing large storage ring experiments in Germany.
Pierce was recognized as an “Outstanding Junior in Physics” last year and was inducted into the physics honors society Sigma Pi Sigma. He is also a Physics 1 lab teaching assistant this semester.
Pierce said he has enjoyed his time as a COSAM student, especially being a part of the Physics Department.
“Almost all the professors here, you can just stop by during their office hours and talk to them and they’ll actually listen to you and they care about you,” he said. “That’s absolutely wonderful. I think it’s one of the most important things you can have, especially being a student, is have a professor who wants you to learn.”
He added that his physics professors and being a part of the Auburn University Society of Physics Students has attributed to his success at Auburn and in COSAM.
“COSAM is not easy,” he said. “You have to work for it, but having these pieces to help out has definitely made it much more enjoyable and easier.”