Elizabeth Ruddy’s dance with physics and a world of possibilities
Elizabeth Ruddy’s bright college years have been filled with pirouettes, particles, and possibilities.
Ruddy, a graduating senior in Berkeley College, came to Yale from Needham, Mass., with a determination to be open to new pursuits. She’d spent a fair amount of her childhood devoted to ballet; what else would she explore at Yale?
Plenty, as it happened.
In the past four years, Ruddy has helped organize a national conference for undergraduate women in physics, conducted cutting-edge dark matter research, worked at the CERN nuclear research center in Geneva, and been both a mentor and tutor to younger Yalies interested in physics.
She also joined the varsity sailing team, an Ultimate Frisbee squad, a rocket building club — and even tried some rhymes at a freestyle rap club. “It was one of the most embarrassing experiences of my life, but so much fun,” she said, laughing about her bad raps.
She found her way back to dance, too, performing with the Undergraduate Ballet and Groove Dance companies. At some of those shows she would look into the audience and see the whole constellation of her Yale universe: lab partners, Berkeley College friends, other Yale dancers, students she had mentored, local alumni who supported her, and of course, her parents.
“I developed a philosophy of saying yes to new opportunities,” Ruddy said. “I was so lucky to keep falling into things that propelled me forward.”
Her physics work was particularly satisfying, she said.
As a first-year student, Ruddy made friendships with older physics students who offered guidance and shared her love for science. In junior year, she began working with physics professor Reina Maruyama, a key mentor.
“I think I speak for all members of my group when I say it has been wonderful to have Liz work with us,” Maruyama said. “She is brilliant, generous, and a great communicator: In other words, the best kind of physicist.”
At Yale’s Wright Lab, Ruddy conducted simulations of radioactive decays in experiments that are trying to detect non-luminous dark matter, the unidentified particles that make up 85% of the universe. At CERN, Ruddy researched new gas compositions that could be used in highly sensitive devices to detect charged particles.
Ruddy will continue her physics career in the fall in the doctoral program at the University of Colorado-Boulder.
And she’ll keep saying yes to new experiences — like the time sophomore year she and her friends at Berkeley celebrated New Haven’s first snowfall. “We walked all the way to East Rock Park and climbed the steps to the top, in the snow,” she said. “I’ll never forget that.”