Laura Stiles

Photo of Laura Stiles

March 2022 Alumni Spotlight

KU Major: Engineering Physics

Graduation Year: 2008

Current Occupation: Sr. Manager, Flight Operations

List the faculty member, staff, graduate student, or postdoc who mentored your research or creative project: Michael Murray

Describe the undergraduate research/creative experience that you had while at KU: Early in my undergraduate years at KU, I joined Professor Murray's nuclear physics research lab. I support two different projects: running simulations for collision dynamics and supporting the build, install, and test of a detector for the Large Hadron Collider.


Q: What did your research or creative project look like on a day-to-day basis?  What did you spend most of your time doing?

A: For the LHC project, I got to spend two of the college breaks (winter, then summer) at the facility at CERN. I was responsible for final assembly of various components of the detector (e.g. the structure holding the photomultiplier tubes), then running checkout tests with an oscilloscope to test end-to-end connectivity to our data systems. 


Q: What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research?

A: My undergraduate research experience taught me both technical and soft skills. Although I did not pursue graduate studies in the same field as my research, I was able to go into my graduate research with several years of experience in the processes related to research.


Q: What advice do you have for undergraduates who might be interested in doing research or creative scholarship?

A: Doing research during my undergraduate time was invaluable for my career. It helped to solidify my desire to continue with academia through my Ph.D. and prepared me with many of the relevant skills.


Q: Do you use any of the skills or perspectives gained doing research in your current occupation? How so?

A: I am currently in a management role in my occupation, so while I do not directly perform engineering work, it is still important that I have the skills that I started to develop during my undergraduate research.


Q: Many undergraduate researchers are making decisions about what to do after they graduate from KU. Having been in those shoes, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then? Do you have any advice?

A: My advice is to not worry too much about what projects or labs you get involved with at the start of your research career - any experience is good experience, even if it helps to show you that you don't want to focus on a particular subject. Coursework only is a tough way to figure out what you want to do with your career - it takes getting hands on and getting experience.


Instagram: @la_stiles  

Facebook: Laura Stiles