News & Stories
Kya Wiggins
February 2, 2022

Physics major plots a path to an engineering career

Kya Wiggins ’22 pictures herself working as a mechanical or aerospace engineer, and Berry College is helping her connect the dots to realize her vision. When she arrived on campus, the physics major tapped into a network of opportunities for undergraduate research, accelerated learning and practical experience that give her a competitive edge.

Last summer, for example, Kya explored the theoretical concept of tensegrity — the arrangement of cable-like bonds between points in a structure, like the ligaments and tendons in the human body. “My objective was to investigate how a system’s ability to support external stresses depends on a phase transition in the mechanical strength of random structures with complex, ‘one-way’ elements such as those common in biology and engineering,” she explains.

The project, part of a federally funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates initiative, gave Kya the chance to learn an advanced computer program called Mathematica and collaborate with Georgia Tech students. “I chose to study physics because I want to better understand how the world works using scientific methods that I can apply to real-world problems,” she says.

Kya also worked as a research assistant investigating quantum mechanics — the atomic and subatomic underpinnings of matter — in the lab of Physics and Astronomy Professor Todd Timberlake, who has become a mentor. “He is always available to answer my questions,” Kya says. “He goes out of his way to make sure I’m doing well academically by providing scholarship links or other research opportunities he thinks I could benefit from.”

Kya gained additional real-world job experience as general manager for Viking Tutoring Services, which pairs Berry students with kids from local middle and high schools. She credits the administrative role with teaching her a lot about solving problems and communicating with faculty, parents and students, as well as effective methods for setting schedules and handling finances. Now she feels more confident about her own ideas and work ethic, she says.

Kya rounded out her last year at Berry by writing her physics Honors thesis — on particle interactions in quantum systems — and by competing in her final meets as a scholar-athlete in track and field. The next point on her path is Georgia Tech, where she will complete her engineering degree, and beyond that, perhaps a job at Delta Air Lines or NASA. “I like to set difficult but achievable goals for myself,” Kya says. “Whenever I start something, I intend to finish it to the best of my ability.”

 Back to Top

Footer Menu