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Solving Real World Problems

Rodoula Kyvelou-Kokkaliaris ’15 wants to study mathematical modeling in graduate school and apply those skills to solving real-world problems.

“I love physics and am a physics major, but I have a social sciences heart,” she explains. “I would like to work on mathematical modeling because I find it very interesting to learn about an issue and quantify it knowing it is only an approximation.

“Physics is the art of approximation. In physics, you have the natural world that you approximate using math, and this gives you beautiful insights into the outside world. I have learned that it’s not about an answer, it’s how close you get to the answer.”

These skills will prove beneficial when she begins to apply them with topics in the social sciences.

Kyvelou-Kokkaliaris completed summer research with Assistant Professor of Physics Michael Lerner and recently presented “Faster calculations of diffusion constants for lipids, water and proteins” during Earlham’s Natural Science research conference.

“It was during the summer research that I realized what I wanted to do later on,” she explains. “We had the freedom and space to be frustrated and the same freedom and space to figure out these frustrations.”

Another aspect of her education that the Greece native found particularly rewarding were senior seminars.

“I love senior seminar and have taken one every year,” she explains. “We delve deeply into advanced topics, and each student is assigned to present different sections of the book. This makes you want to thoroughly understand the topic so you can present and teach it well. You work harder in these courses, but you find out you are a lot better than you thought you were.”

Kyvelou-Kokkaliaris also has an artistic side. She is an avid painter and loves working with oil, and she has been co-convener of the Earthquakers for three semesters.

The group performs a mix of Caribbean, jazz, hip hop and contemporary dance during halftimes of home football and basketball games.

“We have more challenging dances, and we choreograph three dances per semester,” she explains. “We are looking for a higher level of dancers and now have auditions. You have to be a quick learner.”

Rodoula Kyvelou-Kokkaliaris

Rodoula Kyvelou-Kokkaliaris 2015

Hometown: Pireaus, Greece

Major at Earlham: Physics

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