Tia Martineau: Theoretical cosmologies, dark matter & design

Combining her interests in physics and art, Tia Martineau '18 designed the mural for Prof. Khanna's supercomputer trailer.

Year: Class of 2018
Major: Physics
Hometown: North Chelmsford, MA
Achievements: Honors Program, Dean's List
Internship: Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
Service: STEM4Girls
Awards: Empowered Women in STEM Scholarship, A. Melendes Memorial Merit Scholarship

Early love for science and space

I remember wanting to be a scientist but also wanting to keep art around from a very young age. The first profession I wanted incorporated both art and science. I wanted to illustrate children’s animal books, because I wanted to observe the animals in a scientific manner while taking the time to depict them as the beautiful creatures they are.

I also really loved space. My high school physics teacher told the class that if we ever want to work for a place like NASA, we have to be at the “top of the top.”

He pushed me to do what I thought at the time was unthinkable. He deserves all the thanks in the world for showing me my potential, teaching me perseverance, and pushing me to overcome the boundaries I set for myself.

Research on theoretical cosmologies and dark matter

I’m currently working with Dr. Kagan on an informal expansion of Jianyang Li and David Tondorf-Dick’s master’s thesis “Dynamical Solutions of the Universe’s Evolution.” It’s a fun project playing around with theoretical cosmologies, and it gets a little bit into string theory.

This summer, I’m interning in Batavia, Illinois, at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab). I’m working with Dr. Alan Robinson on error analysis in dark matter research.

I’ll be developing an open source and extendable calculator in order to determine the reaction rate from (alpha,n) nuclear reaction yields, which will measure with more accuracy the generation of neutrons in detector materials for dark matter and other similar experiments.

Tia Martineau outside Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois

The connection between physics and art

I think art and physics are more related than people think. Both are methods of problem solving. Science presents you with a clear-cut problem that needs a creative solution. When you have an art-related assignment with no boundaries or given requirements, coming up with that problem is just as, if not more, difficult than finding the solution.

After applying mainly to art schools, I decided to give physics a try. I was originally a dual major in digital media and physics, but I eventually found that physics was the better fit for me.

I intend to keep art as a hobby. Aside from digital media and design, I’m also into digital photography. I originally looked into animation, but the further into physics I get, the more I realize how much animation depends on physics. The fluid motion of characters and objects, coding, rendering, and lighting are all physics.

Tia Martineau's design

Designing the supercomputer mural

My friend Dani Kumor, an illustration major, was originally working with Prof. Khanna on the mural for the supercomputer trailer. She became too busy with internships to continue, and we were both disappointed because a scientific art piece was a really exciting concept.

I was going to have Prof. Khanna the following semester, so with the help and support of Dani, I offered to take over the project.

Tia observing particles in virtual reality as part of a test run for Fermilab's MicroBooNE experiment.

Role model for girls in STEM

I hope to pursue a PhD in physics, astrophysics, or a related field. I hope that young women can look up to people like myself and see that there are women in higher rankings. Maybe that will reassure them that anything is possible.

I volunteered with the Kaput Center for Research and Innovation in STEM Education at their STEM4Girls event. Over 100 girls, ages 10-15, came from southern Massachusetts to experience science, technology, engineering, and mathematics via workshops throughout the day.

I also volunteered with Prof. Fowler’s STEM team at the Quinn Elementary School. I went into classrooms promoting involvement in the sciences through STEM curriculum and experiments for kids in the 5th grade.

More information

College of Engineering: Physics

Kaput Center for Research and Innovation

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