By Kate Blankinship
Billie Males, AB’19, can often be found outside when the weather is nice or in Hinds, where she studies to escape the cold. Males, who is interested in mineral physics and planetary formation, is geophysical sciences major, with a possible double in English. The flexibility of classes is one of the things she likes about UChicago.
“I'm glad that the undergrad program is organized in such a way that I can follow my interests in the sciences while still taking a number of elective classes in other fields.”
One of Males’s favorite classes was mineralogy with Professor Andrew Campbell, whom she names as one of her favorite professors.
Males even pursues her passion for mineral physics and planetary formation over summer breaks. During the summer break after her second year, Males worked in UChicago's Laboratory for Mineral Physics. Her time at this lab involved using anvil cells to compress samples between the tips of two diamonds, mimicking the tremendous pressures of Earth’s interior. The summer also included a beam time weekend at Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source, the laboratory that “saw first light” in 1995. While difficult, Males thinks of this as one of her most memorable summers.
“I feel that I've put a lot of pressure (no pun intended) on myself to learn as much as possible and be useful to the lab,” she said. “Having a lot to learn, though, is also an exciting feeling, and I've been well-prepared by my classes to do good work.”
After her first year, Males worked at the Udvar-Hazy Center at the National Air and Space Museum, and also on a Gallo-Roman archaeological dig near Paris. On the dig, she took part in excavating a theater and a Fanum temple. At the Udvar-Hazy Center, Males was able to integrate science and history with public outreach by designing programs for visitors and completing administrative work. In fact, she helped design marketing materials for the 2016 September launch of the OSIRIS-REx mission.
At the National Air and Space Museum, Males also had the unique opportunity to write an article for the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Magazine about her grandfather, a WWII pilot, who introduced Males to the museum.
“I was lucky enough to be working in the right place at the right time. I'm glad I got the chance to tell that story—the museum is a very special place for me.”
This article allowed Males to tie her interest in science to her love for English literature. Though Minerals is one of her favorite classes, Middle English literature, taught by Professor Mark Miller, is the other.
When not in Hinds or wandering the Reg’s bookstacks, Males is playing double bass in the University Chamber Orchestra, swing dancing, and taking part in intramurals. She even has a job working as an administrative assistant in the music department.
After college, Males plans to go to grad school. If she chooses to focus on cosmochemistry, she’d “love to get involved with the work NASA and other organizations are doing on asteroid formation and composition. The OSIRIS-REx mission launched recently; hopefully some good data come back from that.”
For now, Males is going to continue exploring her many interests. “Being so close to the city has really given me an experience I don't think I would have had at other colleges I was considering.” Yet it is Males who is taking advantage of each experience that crosses her path, and so far it’s worked out quite well.