Abe Kipnis (Class of 2019)

Update: In May, 2020, Abe won a Fulbright grant to Finland for 2020-2021 to pursue a Master’s degree in Computational Engineering and Technical Physics at the Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology (LUT).

photo of Abe Kipnis

What are you doing for your research project?

I’ve spent the last few years working on a computational biophysics project, studying DNA junction structure and dynamics using a coarse-grained MD model for DNA. For that project, I work closely with Francis Starr (PHYS, theorist) and Ishita Mukerji (MB&B, experimentalist) to try and match predictions with experimental data. In addition, I am doing research with Renee Sher (PHYS) on hyper-doped silicon. I measure charge carrier lifetime in Te hyper doped silicon at various concentrations of Te using THz spectroscopy to determine the best concentrations that optimize charge carrier lifetime and mobility. These materials have potential applications in solar cells and photodetectors.

Why did you choose to major in CIS?

I really enjoyed the CIS research frontiers in the sciences seminar as a freshman. It was helpful early on in my trajectory to get exposed to different research methods and perspectives from faculty in the NSM division at Wesleyan. I think that’s especially important as a biophysicist; connecting the data coming from my computer to what the experimentalists observe in their work is still something I’m improving. I also think that as NSM students at a liberal arts university, we lose some of the freedom to explore different subjects and think about our work from an interdisciplinary lens. The CIS has helped me to take a step back and answer ‘what is possible using what I know today?’, ‘what can I learn today to make science more productive tomorrow?’, and ‘what do I find most interesting? where do I focus my efforts so that I can do that?’.

What activities do you do on campus?

Not much! I used to be pretty involved in the sailing team but had to cut back on my attendance and practices because of my thesis, working in two labs, and being enrolled in a full set of classes. Last fall I was a peer health coach, so I got to meet a lot of freshman. My sophomore year I traveled with Wesleyan students to a few hackathons, and participated in the QAC DataFest. I also occasionally set up for shows for the sound co-op.

What are your plans for after graduation?

I’m spending a few months to recollect myself, visit friends and family, go to my high school reunion, and look for jobs to start in September. I’m planning on graduate school in physics after a few years working in industry, so I’ll also be studying for the general and physics GREs and making sure I don’t forget what I learned here. I’ll also be working on writing up the results from the Ishita-Starr collaboration for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

How did the CIS major help at Wesleyan and beyond? 

Like I already mentioned, I now have the language to talk about science from an interdisciplinary perspective and have been exposed to a multitude of research methods. That helps in classes and in other lectures with answering questions like ‘when are we ever going to use this?’ and ‘why is this important?’. I have also developed the confidence to listen to a lecture I know nothing about, think critically about their research methods and results, and ask a follow-up question. Lastly, the CIS has helped tremendously with my presentation and writing skills. I think these will help after Wesleyan, both in the workplace and in graduate school.

What do you do when you’re not in the lab? (favorite hobby)

I like doing independent data analytics; I analyze the metadata from my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist every week to get the most popular and most ‘danceable’ songs, so I listen to a lot of music. It’s also been my dream to build a twitter bot that can influence elections or something of the sort, so I’ve been working on little bits and pieces of that for the last few years. Lastly, I’ve been building a minigame in C and Java, so producing sound effects and adding new functionalities to that is always fun. In short – I don’t have a favorite hobby, but if I did it would definitely involve playing around with code on my computer.