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Meet Taylor Patti, winner of the Cheverton Award

Fifth year Taylor Patti won the most prestigious honor Chapman has to offer, the Cecil F. Cheverton Award. Photo courtesy of Taylor Patti

Headed to Harvard Graduate School in June, fifth year Taylor Patti won the most prestigious honor Chapman has to offer, the Cecil F. Cheverton Award. Patti is a triple major in physics, mathematics, Spanish literature and minored in chemistry.

The Cheverton Award is given to a student with academic excellence after being voted on by Chapman faculty. Instead of being nominated, students are encouraged to apply by their professors.

While highly appreciative for the award and recognition, Patti said her experience at Chapman means the most to her. She encourages students to embrace their time at the university, saying, “while you’re here in this little paradise of Chapman, be grateful and be great.”

The Panther had the chance to ask Patti some questions:

Q: How did you decide your majors?

A: I came to Chapman and had studied abroad in Spain in high school, so I knew I wanted to do a Spanish major. I got the Schmid talent scholarship, so I had to do some sort of science. I’d never taken chemistry and didn’t know what physics was. I actually thought I hated math, but throughout the program all the professors are so encouraging and I ended up majoring in physics (and) math and minoring in chemistry.

Q: How do you balance your schedule?

A: It’s a lot of work. One thing I have to say is that I’m really grateful to have my scholarships extended to my fifth year, so I’m not doing this is in four years. It makes it about a fifth more manageable. Really loving what I do helps- from classes, to research, to organization and groups on campus.

Q: What does the Cheverton Award mean to you?

A: For me, this may sound corny, but it’s sort of recognition of what I believe my mission is on this campus and also in this life, which is first and foremost to do good work. I mean, physics is what I want to do, and then when it comes to Spanish, it’s just about being a good human being in whatever you do. And in particular being a woman in physics and being involved in science on campus is huge. I think it means more to me now than when I came in (to Chapman), not only because I’m older and wiser but also because I think maybe because of where the world is at now. So I just look at this award as recognition for everything I’ve done, but more importantly, everything everyone who’s helped me and who I’ve helped has done and everything we’re trying to do for the future.

Q: What have your biggest challenges been in your time at Chapman?

A: The social expectations. Being a woman in physics is difficult, there’s not a lot of us and when I joined the program I was the only one. It was challenging to learn how to interact with my peers. In my first physics class as a physics major, there’s about 20 guys in the class. Also, learning how to view myself as a physics and math person. I came into Chapman saying I was horrible at math. I thought I couldn’t do physics, I’m not smart like that- that’s for magical people of which I am not obviously. Having to shake that mentality was difficult.

Having to invest fully can be hard because we often hold ourselves back, but you can’t play that game with yourself. Instead, you think, ‘I’m going to fully invest and not self-sabotage so I don’t have an excuse.

Q: How have your goals changed since freshman year?

A: As a freshman, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew I had to do something science-related to fulfill my scholarship. In high school, I was really into speech and debate and was really competitive when I first came to Chapman, so I thought maybe I’d be a lawyer.

Now, my goal is to be a physicist, go into graduate school and be a physics theory person. Not just my for career goals, I want to focus on bringing science into this world. I think I have a greater sense of social responsibility now. Now, I know that in everything I do I want to support people of all kinds.

Q: What advice do you have for people who want to pursue a career similar to yours?

A: Do it. If you think something sounds hard but you have the slightest inkling that it’s what you’d secretly like to do if you were a genius, do that. You really are a genius. You really can do whatever you want to do.

Q: What’s next after graduation?

A: I’m immediately starting on Monday after graduation on research where I’ll be going to graduate school. I’ll be going to get my (doctorate in) physics at Harvard and I’ll immediately be starting research with my future advisers there. I’m moving to Boston in June and then that’s what I’ll do for the next four to six years.

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