Pangaea Finn is an extraordinary teenager. At 17, she’s graduating from Boise State this weekend with Bachelor's degrees (yeah, plural) in physics, math, and music. Next up: Harvard’s physics PhD program. We caught up with Finn to talk graduation, the Boise community she grew up in, and what’s next.
Q: How would you describe the physics community in Boise, and what's it meant to be a part of that? Joining the Boise State Physics Department was a huge shift in my educational path. The department was the first institution I'd found whose explicit goal was to nurture me, guide me, and help me become a better physicist. They were willing to support me right away, from introducing me to a talented cohort of physics majors to encouraging me to start undergraduate research, and I am so grateful for their support.
Q: What are you going to miss most about Boise when you head to Harvard?
A: I'm a Boise native, and so I'm very used to the tight-knit sense of community that I feel living in the City of Trees. Boise feels at once like a decent-sized city, with a university and opportunities to explore the local culture, and a small town with a beautiful river, hiking trails, and the Greenbelt. Mostly, though, it'll just be unfamiliar to move to a new city, in which I won't know where anything is.
Q: What do you hope to gain and contribute through your future research?
A: I explore physics because it allows me to challenge myself, building unfamiliar conceptual understandings while using rigorous mathematics to predict the behavior of the natural world. I've always been fascinated by particle physics; at Harvard, I plan to work on discovering the behavior of the basic building blocks of our universe through theoretical physics or large experiments. Right now my goal is just to explore the field and keep learning about a subject I love.