Catching up with Joan Marler

Bonnie Alger

Moving to Appleton is a homecoming of sorts for Lawrence physics fellow Joan Marler. A native of Chicago, Marler has lived on both the East and West Coasts as an undergraduate at Wellesley College in Massachusetts and a graduate student at the University of California, San Diego.
The pacing difference between the West Coast and Midwest is taking some adjustment. “When I went to Wellesley, I was looking to get out of the Midwest,” Marler said. “I felt more homesick in San Diego than I ever did in college. In San Diego, people move at half speed. On the East Coast, people move at super speed. I was looking for a way to get back to the Midwest.”
Having just graduated from UCSD in June, Marler was also looking for a job. “It’s unusual in physics to teach as a postdoctoral,” she said. “The students [at Lawrence] are all really nice people. They are honest and dedicated to academics. It’s fun to teach people who care about what they’re learning.”
Marler’s interest in physics stemmed from an interest in the related field of mathematics. “I always liked math,” she said. “I entered college undeclared, and was thinking about psychology because I wanted to help people. My mom suggested I take economics and physics. My first physics professor in college got me motivated and excited.” Her connection to Lawrence came by chance through a summer job in San Diego. “I was working with [Lawrence Associate Professor of Physics] Matthew Stoneking on plasma physics, and he asked another postdoctoral student to consider this fellowship. She said, ‘I’m not moving to Wisconsin!’ so I applied for it instead.”
As a physicist, Joan is interested in many different areas of her field. Aside from her summer research in plasma physics, she has also done work on high energy and particle physics, which she studied in Geneva, Switzerland. She also studied antimatter in graduate school. “It’s really fun to go to parties and tell people you’re working on antimatter,” she joked. At Lawrence, she will be concentrating mostly on plasma physics, but hopes to get involved in other areas as well. “I expect to learn a lot here. I think it’s a good idea as a post-doc to learn something new,” she said.
Marler enjoys traveling, salsa dancing, and throwing themed parties. She is not into sports, and doesn’t play an instrument. She also lives independently: “Yeah, I have no kids and no dog … I also hear that students can take faculty to lunch for free! I am available any day for free lunch,” she laughed.
Marler is currently teaching Foundations of Physics and will be teaching labs for Physics of Music, Principles of Classical Physics, and Plasma Physics later this year. She will be giving a presentation of her graduate school research Tuesday at 4:15 p.m. in Science Hall 102.