Katherine Spoth

Katherine Spoth
  • Hometown: Buffalo, NY
  • Applied and Engineering Physics

How and why did you become interested in engineering? 
I took an engineering drawing class my freshman year of high school because my older brother recommended the course. I ended up loving the whole sequence of engineering classes! I decided to major in physics after taking AP Physics in my junior year, and completed my Bachelor’s in Physics and Mathematics at the University at Buffalo in 2012.

What drew you to Cornell's Applied Physics program?
I participated in the CHESS REU at Cornell during one summer of my undergrad - both my first experience with experimental research and my first visit to Cornell! I came to AEP for my PhD because I wanted to come back to Cornell after my REU experience, and the research in the department really appealed to me.

What is the current research project you’re working on? How is it applicable to the outside world?
I’m working on electron microscopy techniques to image biological specimens, especially whole cells, with nanometer resolution. A new pixelated direct electron detector for the electron microscope that was developed here at Cornell allows us to use scanning transmission electron microscopy to image delicate specimens, like cryogenically preserved cells. Unlike conventional STEM detectors, the new detector uses every electron that passes through the sample. This is important because the sample can only tolerate a small number of electrons before damaging.

This technique will allow a wider variety of biological specimens to be imaged with high resolution in the TEM with no need for complicated sample thinning techniques.

What is your most memorable AEP moment?
When our Cornell’s newest electron microscope (the Titan Themis) was delivered to Physical Sciences Building in April 2015.

Where do you see yourself going from here?
My favorite part of grad school has been learning to use the electron microscope and doing experiments, so I’d like to continue as a researcher in microscopy after I graduate.

What is your favorite thing at Cornell?
I love going to hockey games with fellow grad students every season!

What do you like to do in your free time?
For the past year I’ve been helping run the Cornell Graduate Swing Dance Society. Dancing has been a great way to meet new people and get a little activity.

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