An interest in science and research at a young age propelled a local physics professor to pursue her dream and inspire others with her research.
Jane Nachtman grew up in rural Delaware County and spent her younger years working her family farm alongside her five siblings. Later, she excelled in math and science in high school and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Iowa, making her the first in her family to graduate from college.
Science and research were important to Nachtman, so she continued to work hard and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a doctorate in physics. Nachtman credits other educators for being her mentors along her path to teaching.
“My high school teachers were an inspiration to me, especially my English teachers and speech coach; my most important experiences in high school were those that helped me to communicate better,” Nachtman told the Johnston Times. “As a scientist, it is so important to be able to communicate the excitement of science; this is something I am always trying to improve, and something that I try to get across in my teaching and my research.”
After receiving her doctorate, Nachtman went to work for Fermilab as a research scientist. She spent six years working there before moving back to Iowa for her current position. As a female scientist and educator, Nachtman has overcome some difficulty.
“It is very challenging to balance family and work,” Nachtman said. “Previous generations of women scientists were effectively faced with the choice of having a family or a career, and I have been lucky enough to have both. It is not easy, especially in my area of research where a lot of travel is required, but I have had a lot of support along the way from my family and my supervisors.”
This month, Nachtman returned from CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, where alongside fellow University of Iowa professor Yasar Onel, she heads the university’s “scientific representation with the Compact Muon Solenoid, one of gigantic large particle detectors at the LHC,” according to the University of Iowa.
“I try to always be encouraging and available for female students,” Nachtman said. “I try to be open about the struggles I have faced, so they realize that they are not alone and also should feel that they can be whatever they want.”