Physics major alumna contributes to major discovery in her field

When Sarah Eno ’84 boarded a plane to Greece with the Gettysburg College classics department as an undergraduate over 25 years ago, she had no idea that one day she would be traveling to Europe on a monthly basis as part of her career.

Eno, now a physics professor at the University of Maryland, has been involved in the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment that discovered what many scientists believe to be the Higgs boson, the particle thought to give all matter its mass. The CMS experiment is based at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), located just outside Geneva, Switzerland.

While her trip to Greece as an undergraduate was her first experience in Europe, she now plays a significant role in the global scientific community. Eno (pictured below, at the European Organization for Nuclear Research) began working on the experiment at the LHC in 1999 and expects to remain involved as the project further develops. When the media erupted in coverage of the monumental Higgs boson discovery earlier this year, she was right in the middle of the action.

Sarah Eno

“It’s an exciting time for my field,” said Eno, whose mornings often consist of video conferences with colleagues in Europe. For a long time she made a trip to the LHC every month, but she has recently cut down to four trips per year.

Working at the LHC is a collaborative effort. Eno is one of five University of Maryland faculty members involved with the experiment out of over 3,000 scientists from around the globe. Contributing to such a large and ground-breaking experiment has been an exciting experience for Eno. Not only has she grown as a scientist through her participation on the experiment; she has also developed a more global perspective and connected with professionals all over the world.

Her research has had a truly global impact, and Eno credits her time at Gettysburg College as influential in getting her to that point.

“I had a wonderful experience at Gettysburg with both the physics and math departments,” said Eno, who graduated with a major in physics and a minor in math.

She recalls doing research as an undergraduate with Dr. Laurence A. Marschall, and learning practical skills that would contribute to her future success in the academic and scientific communities.

“I remember Sarah very well. She was a wonderful student to work with—very smart and very hard working,” said Marschall, who still teaches at Gettysburg today. “Her project was to build a computer-controlled photometer for the college observatory—a device to measure the brightness of stars…The project was state of the art for the time. I hope that work helped her in her future research.”

In addition to sharpening her research skills, Eno learned how to write effectively during her time at Gettysburg, a skill that would prove essential when communicating the results of her work in later years.

“What surprised me after leaving Gettysburg was how much I have to write,” Eno said. “It’s not only about doing research; it’s about writing well, and the liberal arts education made sure I got that training.”

Her improved communications skills led Eno to success after Gettysburg as she pursued a Ph.D. in Physics at the University of Rochester and conducted post-doctoral research at the University of Chicago. In addition to the rigorous academics of Gettysburg that prepared her for life after college, she recalls other undergraduate memories with fondness, such as living in Patrick and Stevens residence halls and eating at the Lincoln Diner. Now living in Maryland, Eno enjoys coming back to Gettysburg for class reunions and revisiting the place where she first explored her passion for physics.

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Article by: Liz Williams '13, communications & marketing intern

Posted: Fri, 16 Nov 2012

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