Claire Zurkowski

Meet Claire Zurkowski

Headshot of Claire Zurkowski

Claire Zurkowski was born in Baltimore and grew up in Havre de Grace, Maryland. She received a B.S. from San Francisco State University. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in geophysical sciences. We interviewed her about her experience at the University of Chicago.

Why did you choose UChicago?

My current advisor made sure I felt welcomed and appreciated for my potential role in the department during my initial visit. My advisor had also recently won a campus-wide award for being the best Ph.D. advisor and it was hard to pass up the opportunity to work with him! 

What noteworthy academic, research, or teaching activities you have pursued while at the UChicago?

I am pursuing a Ph.D. in mineral physics; experimentally studying the chemistry of planetary cores where pressures and temperatures are millions of times higher than ambient conditions. The experimental methodology of my work involves compressing microscopic samples between two diamonds and subsequently heating the sample configuration with a laser. So far, I have broken my lab’s record for the highest pressure reached in an experiment (236 GPa)! 

I have shared my research at three conferences so far and presented talks on my work at two of these conferences. After both talks, I received an award for my presentation and sparked connections with scientists I admire. 

The Geophysical Sciences department at UChicago provides graduate students with many opportunities to practice public speaking in preparation for scientific meetings. Prior to attending these conferences, I prepared talks for the undergraduate geoscience club, graduate student luncheons, and various departmental study groups. These opportunities and the responses to my work continue to motivate me in my studies. 

What activities do you participate in outside of the classroom?

Outside of work, I enjoy textile art. I have a couple looms I use to weave rugs and clothing. Weaving is a great way to continue using my hands and my brain while not having to look at a computer.

What are your plans post-UChicago?

I would like to pursue a postdoctoral position followed by a position in academia or as a research scientist in a national lab.

What support have you received at the UChicago? 

Upon coming to UChicago, I was awarded the McCormick fellowship along with the University stipend. I am now funded by the National Science Foundation’s fellowship for graduate student research.

If you were speaking to a prospective student, what would you tell them about UChicago?

UChicago provides so many opportunities for graduate students to share their work, get involved, interact with other departments and seek help if they need it. Take advantage! Whether it be Grad Gargoyle, an art show for scientists, lab tours of other departments, or grad student mixers, UChicago offers so many platforms for sharing your work and connecting with others who understand the busy grad student experience.