Ashley Greeley, B.S. 2011

Research Astrophysicist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center – Greenbelt, MD

2011 Major: Physics (with distinction); minor in Theater Studies

How has being a Physics graduate from Duke helped shape you personally and/or professionally?

"Graduating from Duke has opened doors for me that might not otherwise be there. Of course, I still had to prove my skills in a new job, but having graduated from the Duke Physics program assured employers that I received a great education. I also learned my strengths and weaknesses at Duke in a way that helped me decide what physics career I wanted to pursue. Classes were always a bit of a struggle for me, but I found out early on that I really enjoyed - and was good at - independent research. I did ultimately go back to school for my PhD, but spent some times working at NASA first to decide how to apply my interests and skills."

What advice would you give students in Duke's Physics programs? 

"If you don't already know how you want to use your physics degree, that's ok! Take some time to figure out what you want. I took two years between undergrad and grad school and am grateful for the time. I figured out what I wanted to do and sorted out my life a bit. I felt much more grounded and ready for grad school after the break, with renewed vigor as I had a clear goal in mind in the end. I don't recommend going to grad school just because that seems like the next prescribed step. Grad school is long and hard, and comes with sacrifices, but it can also help you achieve your goals. Lastly, you do not have to be top of your class in order to succeed in physics. Research, in particular, rewards those that stubbornly pursue a problem like a puzzle, coming up with creative solutions to answer a range of science questions. That's a separate skill than acing your tests (although of course you need a foundation of physics knowledge!). So don't be discouraged if you love physics but find your classes challenging."

Ashley Greeley (nee Jones)