Sammy Howell
Sammy Howell

Samantha's Story

Samantha  Howell

Class of 2020 • Montgomery County, Maryland

Samantha “Sammy” Howell came to Washington College thinking she wanted to major in psychology, but the physics class she took as her general science requirement her freshman year convinced her otherwise. Now, after back-to-back paid summer internships, she’s applying to graduate school to pursue materials and environmental engineering. “The professors were super amazing and my study group was super cool, so I stuck with it. I found that it came kind of naturally to me, which it doesn’t do for a lot of people,” she says. “The community was really great. If you had hard homework, there was always somebody to talk to. So, it was a really nice learning environment to be in, much more so than my other subjects I took as a freshman.” A physics major with minors in computerscience, mathematics, and psychology, Sammy says that community, coupled with support from the faculty, have been instrumental in her success. “In or out of office hours, they’re just always there, always happy to help if you have a question,” she says. “They get that it’s hard stuff that we’re doing, and they’re really super amazing people. My professors will look at emails I’m sending to grad schools, be references on my CVs, even stuff like, ‘Hey, what kind of questions should I ask when I go on this grad school visit?’ They are always there, and I can say that about every single member of the physics department, faculty-wise. I think that’s one of the reasons why it makes it easy to stick with it even when it’s hard, because when your peers and your professors are rooting for you, that really makes a big difference.” Sammy has landed two paid summer internships, the first through the Army Educational Outreach Program’s Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (URAP), where she worked on a chemical engineering project with a graduate student at the University of Maryland.

Her second internship, the summer before her senior year, was with the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., where she worked with earth scientist Robert Hazen and several post-docs on a database analysis of stellar silicon carbide. She’ll be co-author on two papers asa result of her efforts. “It was a really phenomenal experience. I learned a ton. I learned alot of database analysis and computer science stuff as well as how to collaborate with others and write papers,” she says. But the big bonus was talking with the post-docs about graduate school, “how to be in grad school, what the steps are, what happens after, the different routes. I learned more than I could ever dream of over that summer talking with these people and making these connections.” She’s in the process of applying to graduate school for materials engineering with a focus on the environment or environmental engineering. Playing forward on the WC women’s basketball team, Sammy has twice been named to the Centennial Conference Academic Honor Roll. She’s also a physics and calculus tutor in the Quantitative Skills Center, and secretary of environmental affairs on the Student Government Association—a role she relishes for its efforts to make students more aware of how their actions affect the environment. “For each holiday this year we’re doing a table in Hodson trying to target the study bodyand do something fun to get them to think about it when they go into the dining hall, like, don’t take six napkins when you go to lunch,” she says. “You can hug trees and be zero waste as much as you want. But If you’re not working as a leader in environmental stuff, getting other peoplewho don’t already care to care about it, in the grand scheme of things we’re still progressingtoward not being able to fix anything.

Samantha Howell's Four Year Plan

Year 1

Favorite ClassPHYSICS 111,112: General Physics

“I liked the second semester better because even though that was the harder physics, we had by that point established a pretty solid group of people to work with. So it was a lot of fun working on problem sets and going through that kind of stuff. Also, the second semester labs were pretty interesting.”

Year 2

Learn By Doing Internship

During the summer after her sophomore year, Sammy landed a paid internship through the Army Educational Outreach Program’s Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (URAP), where she worked on a chemical engineering project with a graduate student at the University of Maryland.

Year 3

Learn By DoingInternship

After her junior year, she got a paid internship at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., where she worked with earth scientist Robert Hazen and several post-docson a database analysis of stellar silicon carbide. She’ll be co-author on two papers as a result ofher efforts

Year 4

Looking Forward ToSenior Capstone Experience

Sammy’s Senior Capstone Experience is either going to a computational model of polar ice meltdue to climate change, or an extension of the work she did at Carnegie Science on stellar siliconcarbide found in pre-solar grains that were dust when the universe was formed.