Applied Physics, Applied Spanish Skills

Jaime Cochran ‘25 has a diverse skill set, which is reflected in her choice of study: she is an Applied Physics Major, a Spanish minor, and is also pursuing a Theatre Certificate. Most recently, her talents were combined as a researcher at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota in the summer of 2023. She spent ten weeks working on what’s called “Ultra-Low Background Counting” for the LUX-ZEPLIN Dark Matter Detector. Cochran describes the technical parts of the experience as follows: “my colleagues and I went a mile underground and assayed (evaluated for radioactivity levels) machine parts for the detector and reported back to the data collection team so they’d know what was Dark Matter and what was naturally occurring radioactivity in the environment.”

When she arrived in South Dakota, Jaime learned that four out of her six fellow student researchers spoke Spanish, so they decided to discuss their data findings in Spanish. It was a great way to both practice and learn new vocabulary in Spanish, and Cochran noted “I was so happy to use vocabulary for what I call a ‘frontier topic’ – vocabulary on the border of my knowledge of the Spanish language.” Cochran is a great example of a student who challenges herself to practice her skills in real-world scenarios. She further applied her skills gained from her Siena College Spanish minor while attending a conference where she spoke with Dark Matter researchers from Argentina in Spanish. “I noticed I was among a very select group of people who could speak Spanish and therefore connect with researchers from other countries,” remarked Cochran. This is proof that developing proficiency in languages leads to networking opportunities and professional contacts. In Cochran’s case, she was told by the person who selected her for the position that “her application was placed at the top of the pile since she had competency in Spanish, since it set her apart from other candidates.” Cochran will surely continue to use her skills in Spanish as she recognizes they are such an important tool to have in her repertoire.

We encourage students to continue the pursuit of studying other languages, because they open so many doors!