Shelby Klomp ’20, Physics

Posted on July 24th, 2017 by

Shelby Klomp is a sophomore physics major at Gustavus. She first became interested in math and science in middle school, when she had a great teacher who taught both art and math. From there, Shelby found herself continually drawn to math and science, saying “I was successful in it and I liked it”. Physics seemed to her like a way of combining her love of math and her love of science. She doesn’t know exactly what career path she wants to pursue, but she knows that she will major in physics and see where it takes her.

Shelby has many gifts and talents that make her well suited for the physics discipline. Math has always come easily for her, and it seems to her like her brain just works in a way that makes mathematical thinking feel natural. She is also inspired to pursue science by her mom, who has her master’s degree in math and engineering. Shelby says that the fact that her mom, who was one of very few women in the field at the time she was getting her degree, was able to achieve so much helps her to remember that “it was possible then, so clearly it’s possible now”. Though she does already notice that she’s in the minority in her physics classes, she hasn’t let that gender imbalance discourage her from her chosen major.

In addition to her passion about physics and science, Shelby considers her faith and beliefs very important to who she is. She was raised Catholic, though she doesn’t know if she necessarily completely defines her faith by that label anymore. Shelby says that the core of her religious beliefs are that “everyone should be equal, you should fight for other’s rights, and you should care about others even if they don’t do the right thing”. She doesn’t feel that being religious makes her unusual in her discipline, especially at Gustavus, referencing the wide variety of religious beliefs held by both faculty and students in the physics department. In fact, through an organization on campus, her current physics professor drives her and other students to church on Sundays.

The interactions between Shelby’s faith and her scientific interest play out in many different ways in her life. She doesn’t consider science as fundamentally opposed to “the core beliefs” of her religion, but there are some areas, especially politically-charged ones, where she feels that she might not agree with the majority of the people of her faith in part because of her confidence in science. While she personally struggles somewhat with some of these conflicts, she doesn’t see science and religion as irreconcilable, either in her own life or in society in general. However, Shelby’s religious beliefs have changed as she has pursued science. Coming to college and being exposed to a wide range of classes has given her a chance “to think about what I actually believe in”, and because of this she has shifted what she believes on some topics. This introspection, informed in part by her scientific major and classes, has clarified her values and her faith, but she hasn’t felt like she’s being pushed to give up her faith and her religious identity.

In many ways, Shelby considers science and her faith to be two separate parts of her life. She says that she doesn’t “let them overlap a whole lot”, and that because she doesn’t see any major issues or conflicts between these two important parts of her life she lets them coexist, but doesn’t necessarily seek out topics or issues where they might influence each other. Shelby believes that this might in part be because of her experience in school. She went to a private Catholic elementary and middle school, and she says that while “a lot of people think that means that they brushed over science, or altered the science”, at this particular school “they were very good about actually teaching science as fact, and not leaving any science out, but also teaching religion in other classes”.

However, Shelby does think that her faith might have subconsciously influenced in some ways her scientific interest and pursuit of a physics major. She says that physics is essentially about figuring out how the world works. If you believe, like her, that God has influenced how the world works, then physics can be seen as a way to “delve into” God’s work. Because of this, her scientific interest and pursuit of her vocation may in some ways be informed by her faith. As Shelby put it, you can see physics, and science in general, as a way of learning about God.


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