Alexandra Detweiler is the 2019 recipient of AWIS Kirsten R. Lorentzen Award

July 23, 2019


A part of the AWIS Educational Foundation program, the Kirsten R. Lorentzen Award is for women who are college sophomores and juniors studying physics, including space physics and geophysics, or geoscience.

“I can’t put into words how thankful I am to be given such a gift. This award means the world to me, and as someone with medical bills to worry about in addition to student loans, this has taken a large weight off my shoulders,” said Alexandra Detweiler about receiving AWIS’ Kirsten R. Lorentzen Award.

Alexandra Detweiler

“There are so many incredibly intriguing unanswered questions in the field. [F]avorites include the dark matter/energy questions, the mystery of what happened before the Big Bang and the long-term fate of our universe,” she said. “[Physics] is the most fundamental of the sciences. Physics has taught me that things that seem quite daunting at first are often more doable than they seem.”

Alexandra is a physics and astrophysics undergraduate student at the Illinois Institute of Technology and enrolled in the co-terminal health physics master’s degree program.

“AWIS is delighted to be able to support Alexandra with the Lorentzen Award. She demonstrates the exceptional talent and dedication of women pursuing careers in all fields of STEM.  Physics is still one of the less gender-balanced areas of STEM, and AWIS hopes the award helps Alexandra, and all women in physics and geosciences, understand how valuable they are to the field,” said Gretchen Scheiber, PhD, MBA, Core Lab Staff Scientist at NIH and Chair of the AWIS National Governing Board Educational Committee.

Alexandra’s interests in health physics comes from recognizing so many opportunities to “directly help people and save lives. There seems to be very common misconceptions regarding radiation and helping the public better understand the topic is something that appeals to me,” said Alexandra. She credits the role of AWIS and SPS for recognizing her accomplishments to present her with the Kirsten R. Lorentzen Award which is just one aspect that will support her studies in science and defray some of her expenses while in college. “Organizations like AWIS and SPS are vital for women in STEM because they provide a place for students like me to gather together and remember they’re not alone. It’s easy for college students to get wrapped up in their coursework, forget the world exists, and experience burnout. Organizations like this help remind students why they love their field and help them stay grounded,” she said.

In addition to Alexandra’s academic priorities and accomplishments, she is also the editor-in-chief of the university’s newspaper, TechNews, president of the university chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS), and president and creator of Writers at Illinois Tech (WaIT). She also had the opportunity to work on two research projects that expanded her knowledge and skills in experimental particle physics and computational astrophysics. Outside of physics Alexandra has interests in music, philosophy, reading, and writing.

One of Alexandra’s long-term goals is to publish a book and, she says, “positively influence as many lives as possible, whether that’s through my work as a health physicist or simply being as good of a person as I can be.”

The Kristen R. Lorentzen Award is in the amount of $2,000 given annually to an exceptionally well-rounded student who excels in her studies as well as outdoor activities, service, sports, music, or other non-academic pursuits or who has overcome significant obstacles. The award is administered by the Society of Physics Students (SPS) and may be used for any aspect of education, including tuition, books, housing, or travel, for example.  For more information visit