Love in the Lab

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Love in the Lab


Mariann Salisbury, Director of Development, American Institute of Physics

Jonathan and Mahela Morrow-Jones showing their shared love for Dr. Who. Photo courtesy of Mahela Morrow-Jones.For the future of physics, Jonathan and Mahela Morrow-Jones support student travel to PhysCon 2019.

Jonathan and Mahela Morrow-Jones met in the physics lab at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in the early 1980s. Back then, VCU did not have a physics graduate program, so undergrads were sometimes hired as teaching and research assistants. The physics professors kindly kept the lab open all night so students could pull amazingly chaotic all-nighters doing homework and studying for tests. The winters were cold, but the labs would become cozy retreats as someone would bring a couple of pizzas and bags of taco chips, and before you realized it, the chalkboards were filled, it was five in the morning, students were better prepared for their tests, and it was time for everyone to wander home.

Mahela remembers that while all the students loved physics, money to expand their professional development was tight. Once an opportunity developed to travel with their professor 60 miles west to the physics department at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville to see what the students were up to there. During these kinds of outings one of the professors would drive and pay for gas and lunches.

Jonathan and Mahela graduated and married in 1983 and moved to California, where Jonathan earned his PhD in string theory from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Jonathan has enjoyed being a physics researcher all this time, and Mahela spent decades as a technical writer. She now tutors physics and math to at-risk high school students.

Given their own experiences, the couple understands the excitement and value of getting together with other physics students and being a part of a larger scientific community. They also understand the expense, which is why they hope others will join them in helping the next generation of physicists experience the dynamic community of PhysCon 2019.