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Stargazer Wins Ratte Award

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As a child, Kasandra Jorgensen ‘06 marveled at the stars from her home amid the mountains of Pine, Colorado. As a physics major, she reached for the stars and won the 2006 Rena J. Ratte Award, the undergraduate college’s highest academic honor.

Jorgensen started out as a biochemistry major but changed direction after being inspired by a course in deep-space astronomy, taught by Herschel Snodgrass, professor of physics. “I credit him for my interest in pursuing physics,” she says.

She also credits Thomas Olsen, associate professor of physics and 2006 teacher of the year, as her mentor. In summer 2004, she worked with Olsen in an ongoing project to observe and understand eclipsing pairs of stars. The following summer, she broadened her research skills by studying the evolution of young stars at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, New Mexico. She later presented her results at the annual national meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C. Her research is also being prepared for publication in Astrophysical Journal, one of the field’s most prestigious publications.

While at Lewis & Clark, Jorgensen participated in the Fencing Club, the Physics Club, and the Society of Physics Students, and served as a teaching assistant for biology and physics. She also played in Lewis & Clark’s Symphony Orchestra and was the featured flute soloist in the music department’s spring 2005 concert.

Jorgensen, who graduated magna cum laude with departmental honors in physics, plans to study astrophysics and planetary science at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Eventually, she hopes to teach or work at a national lab doing astronomy research.

Rena Ratte was a Lewis & Clark philosophy instructor and professor during the 1960s. Following her unexpected death in 1970, colleagues, students, and friends established the award to honor Ratte’s memory.

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