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Jon Cripe '12

As a member of the cross country and track teams in high school as well as multiple school bands, Cripe searched for a top academic university where he could continue his strong interests in music and athletics. His search led him to DePauw University, where he is now a senior Physics and Mathematics double major, captain of the track and cross country teams, trumpeter, and member of various other organizations.

Arriving on campus for cross country practice three days before other students, Cripe knew no one. That, however, would soon change. “Running on the cross country team really helped me transition to life at DePauw,” Cripe says. “I had a group of friends as soon as I showed up on campus.” Over his four years as a runner, Cripe developed lifelong friends and countless memories. “The guys and girls on the team are some of my closest friends, they’re like family.  I’ll never forget all the runs, team trips, and games of Mario Cart that we shared.” Cripe notes that these experiences are some of his fondest memories at DePauw and that his time as a student-athlete was vital to his DePauw experience.

Another important part of Cripe’s time at DePauw has been his involvement in the Science Research Fellows (SRF) honors program and his membership in the physics department. Cripe knew he wanted to take physics classes from the start. “I really enjoyed physics in high school. My teacher was great, and I enjoyed the problem solving and inquisitive nature of physics.” The physics department typically rages between 20-25 total students, but the small size did not worry Cripe; it attracted him. “All the physics professors and students are very friendly. The professors are interested in your learning and support you in and out of the classroom.” Cripe found another one of his niches in the small but tight-knit physics department. “We work on homework together and share jokes all the time,” Cripe says, “and we have the student lounge where we can work together and escape from the crowds in Julian.”

It was through the physics department that Cripe first considered joining SRF. “I wanted to get involved in some research, so I applied for lateral entry into SRF.” During his sophomore year, Cripe participated in two research projects: one with five other SRF students in the fall to study light pollution in Greencastle and Putnam County with Prof. Mary Kertzman and one with two students in the spring and summer to study entangled photons with Prof. John Caraher. Cripe then spent the summer after his sophomore year continuing to work on the project he started in the spring. “Doing research during the summer was really engaging and enjoyable. I like the work I did during the day, and at night, I just got to relax and not worry about homework or studying for tests.” Staying in university owned housing, Jon Cripe lived with five other students. “My housemates and I had a lot of fun. We cooked meals together, played soccer together, and hung out after work.” To top it off, the physics students and faculty on campus took a day off work to go canoeing through Turkey Run State Park. “It was great to take a break from work and spend some time outdoors,” Cripe says.

The Science Research Fellows program also requires a second summer long research experience, so during his junior year, Cripe searched on the National Science Foundation website for funded research programs for undergraduates, called REUs. One in particular caught his attention, a gravitational physics REU that offered the chance to do research abroad. “As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to apply!” Cripe says, “I was very interested in gravitational wave research, and I could go abroad for my research!”

During the summer of 2011 he conducted his research at the University of Birmingham, England with Dr. Clive C. Speake. “I loved it! The people I worked with were great, the grad students made me feel welcome, my research was exciting, and I got to travel around England on the weekends! What more could I ask for?” Before and after his summer of research in England, Cripe attended meetings with the other dozen REU participants in Paris. “We all met each other at the beginning, flew off to six different countries for our summer research, and all came back together to present our results at the end. And it was in Paris!” In addition, Cripe made valuable connections with leading scientists in the field, which he hopes will help in applications to graduate school. “I plan to go to grad school for a physics Ph.D. and continue with gravitational wave research, so my research experience and the connections I made will really come in handy,” Cripe says. After graduate school, Cripe plans to stay in the field of gravitational wave physics and someday become a physics professor. “And who knows, maybe I could help coach the cross country and track teams at the university. That’d be a perfect scenario.”