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Kaeli Hughes


Kaeli Hughes from Worthington, Ohio, is a graduating senior majoring in physics. Her research project on neutrinos won second-place at the 2017 Denman Undergraduate Research Forum. Physics Associate Professor Amy Connolly is her research advisor.

Can you explain the essence of your project?

We are searching for a type of particle called a neutrino, specifically, those more energetic than any previously detected! Created in the universe, some neutrinos will interact with ice in Antarctica, where our detector is located. My project is working to implement machine learning — a way to teach a computer to solve complex problems — into techniques we use to analyze our data. While it needs tweaking before its full potential can be utilized, we’re optimistic about future results!

How did you get interested in physics?

Well, my dad is a physics professor at Ohio State, so I resisted being a physicist for a long time! I wanted to do something different. I loved high-school chemistry classes and planned to major in chemistry. Then I took introductory physics classes at Ohio State and realized physics allows you to solve all sorts of interesting problems at a fundamental level. I loved that all of my homework problems were like puzzles! Now four years later, I definitely think physics is right for me.

Why did you come to Ohio State?

Growing up in a Columbus suburb meant Ohio State was always on my radar. But visiting sealed the deal. Ohio State felt like a community, not just a school. So, I chose to become a Buckeye, probably one of the best decisions I've made!

Who are your role models?

My research advisor, Professor Amy Connolly, has been a huge role model for me; I learned so much about research from her! She is definitely a big reason I feel ready for graduate school next year. My parents are fantastic; they always taught me to be the best version of myself. I am so grateful for all the opportunities they gave me. 

What are your after-graduation plans?

I will be going to the University of Chicago to pursue my PhD in Physics. I can’t wait!

Any other awards, honors or activities you’d like to mention?

I was selected an Eckhardt Scholar at the University of Chicago, a huge honor; and awarded Honorable Mention in NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program.