carrie-menke_mg_8145.jpg I grew up in Ohio, Indiana, Texas, and Tennessee, but have lived in California the longest. My high school physics teacher was amazing and inspired me to take physics classes in college. I graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1996 with a B.S. in Physics.  I spent 6 months in England and Scotland on a work exchange program through BUNAC before moving back to Texas to work as a Communications Engineer with the Communications Systems Division of Rockwell Collins. At Rockwell, I studied thermo-mechanical modeling in circuit boards, which was cheaper than the literal "Shake and Bake" for testing communications components subject to harsh military environments.  In 1999 I entered the Physics graduate program at UC Irvine, in their second year of the Chemical and Materials Physics (ChaMP) cross-disciplinary program. I earned my M.S. in 2002 and Ph.D. in 2005, studying ionization and fragmentation of rare gas clusters.

I parlayed my experience with mass spectrometry to become the first postdoctoral scholar in the Science department of the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles. Studying modern paints and pigments while working alongside art historians, conservators, and museum scientists was interesting, but I missed working with students. 

UC Merced accepted their first students in 2005. Three years later, I joined the physics department.  Initially as an Adjunct Lecturer and now as an Associate Teaching Professor, I get to focus on students.