Kim Belmes Fast Facts
- Hometown: Lacey, WA
- Class Year: 2018
- Major: Physics
- Minors: Computer Science and Mathematics
- Scholarship Received: Philip & Alice Kayser Scholarship, Provost Merit Award, Costco Wholesale Scholarship
- Favorite Spot on Campus: Comfy chair in Morken Atrium
- Extracurricular Activities: President of Physics Club and W.M. Keck Observatory volunteer
- Current Jobs: Astronomy teaching assistant and sales associate at the Lute Locker
- Free-time Favorites: Spending time with family and keeping up with TV shows like the Big Bang Theory with her older brother
What PLU Has Been for Me
My experience at PLU has been wonderfully unbelievable, to say the least.
I came to PLU intending to pursue a degree in psychology, but during my first semester, I took a cultural anthropology course and my vocational path immediately changed.
In my cultural anthropology course, we read an article about the gender pay gap in America. The article attributed the pay gap to the large underrepresentation of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. Right away, I knew that I wanted to contribute to this cause. And what better way to do so then by majoring in one of the natural science fields most notorious for being heavily male-dominated: physics.
During my second semester at PLU, I signed up for my first college physics and math classes. My second year at PLU, I declared a physics major – and I haven’t looked back since.
There have definitely been times when I’ve questioned my capability to obtain a degree in a field brimming with brilliant minds. But my determination to represent women coupled with my newfound love for science have motivated me to continue whenever I slump in the face of self-doubt.
Now I’m in my senior year and my physics professors and classmates have become like a family to me. I can hardly believe how blessed I am to have experienced so many amazing opportunities in this field.
In the summer of 2016, I conducted astronomy research at PLU’s W.M. Keck Observatory. Before that, I didn’t have much of an interest in astronomy, but it was so breathtaking to see stars and planets and the cosmos with my own eyes. This research experience triggered my curiosity about what else is out there and really opened my eyes to how much I love doing research.
This past summer, I conducted solar physics research at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and I’ll be presenting my research at the end of the year in New Orleans for the 2017 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union. I have been so blessed by these opportunities, and it wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t come to PLU.
Right now I’m applying for the 2018 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and I’m going to start looking for jobs, too, to keep my options open. Ultimately, I’m pretty sure I’ll go to grad school – likely for a degree in physics and astronomy.
My research experiences at PLU really uncovered my love for conducting research, so I want to incorporate that into my future career if possible. It’s so rewarding to discover something new and then to share it with others. It makes me really feel like I’m contributing to the world, and I would love to do that for the rest of my life.