Interview with Editor in Chief Marie Sykes

Kate Horan


Vol. 52/Issue 11


How and when did you get involved in The Grizzly?

I first joined the Grizzly in November 2020. It was the pandemic and I was really missing having some sort of writing class since I focused on my physics major that year. The Grizzly seemed like something fun to get involved in amidst the pandemic and I enjoyed it. My first big article was a feature on Kissing the Witch that spring, and that’s how I became the features editor for the next year. A few weeks later, a defining moment for me was investigating how a student was arrested during a counterprotest on the Berman Lawn. I knew I wanted the story to be heard and reached out to the current editor-in-chief. Over the next three days, I investigated the incident, interviewed witnesses, the mayor, Collegeville Police, and the college administration and we got the article in that week’s issue (our typical turn-around for an article is two weeks, so that is quite quick). That weekend was when I realized what change writing could do for the college.


What was it like being a double major in English and Physics? What were some of your favorite aspects about each?

To start, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about why I did that. I became interested in physics in middle school when I realized I could combine my interests in astronomy and math and pursue them in physics. At the same time, I love creative writing and reading books, particularly fantasy and science fiction. Also the physics major totally helps with writing science fiction, so it’s a win-win.

Both majors have pushed me to improve in the other, whether that was through looking at a problem from an alternative perspective, improving my communication and analytical skills, or just giving me a break from the other. It’s kept my classes varied and I’m grateful I’ve gotten to pursue both interests. I’ve been able to combine my classes through analyzing literature via its uses of temporality, writing articles for the Society of Physics Students Observer on physics-topics, and introducing physics into my novel on time travel.

My favorite English memory might be when I wrote a Monty Python-esque script on John Milton as a form of the research essay “Gods, Rebels, and Frauds” with Dr. Kozusko. I also loved the Fable and Fantasy creative writing class (and we met Maggie Stiefvater in it!).

Physics-wise, my General Relativity class is a highlight. I love the math in it and studying the structure spacetime so much that I’m focusing on it during my Ph.D. I’ve also found a love for research in my materials science work, and I’ve loved my time in the lab as well. Also going to the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics. There’s too many highlights.


What are some of your favorite memories from your time at Ursinus?

I have too many and not enough space so I’m going to list things off rapid-fire.  Hanging out with my friends scattered throughout the week and the weekend. The Grizzly (clearly). The physics community. Orchestra and the pit band. Research.

Also not quite on campus (but recommended by Dr. Carroll and Jon Ward ’13): researching gravitational waves in Pisa, Italy, last summer. Beyond it being Italy, Pisa also has one of the four gravitational wave detectors in the world and is one of the places Galileo studied.


What are some of the most important lessons that you have learned during your undergraduate experience?

So I’ve never gone to a school for four years in a row. Before Ursinus, I attended seven schools from K-12th grade, and my junior year of high school was my sixth school in six years. So adjusting to living in one place was strange, but I’ve loved getting to know the college and the area and being part of the community. I’ve never really felt like I was a part of something like this before.

Learning to roll with the punches is the number one lesson I’ve learned beyond how to live in a place for four years. I was in the Covid class, and not knowing what would come next has defined our time here. You just have to make the most of the time you have, and if something does not work out, you move on and try again. And sometimes you need to just keep trying.



What are your post-graduate plans?

I’ll be getting a Ph.D. at UNC studying theoretical astrophysics starting August! I plan to study gravitational waves and I’m looking at how if the rate of the expansion of the universe varied with time, how that would affect our readings of gravitational waves.

I’ll still be writing as well! I started a time travel novel I’ve worked on especially in my creative writing courses. Someday I would love to write for Doctor Who.


What is some advice that you have for other Ursinus students?

You can’t learn without failure, and failure doesn’t have to be scary. You can get back up and fix things most of the time, but you always have the chance to do better next time. It’s never too late to try something new.

Be as kind as possible. To others, but also to yourself. Sometimes people forget that part. I try not to regret things, but the few I have are mainly about not being kind enough.

Finding non-academic outlets really helped me. Music is a major part of that for me, especially drumming, as well as lifting weights, but I also got involved at the church across the street. Having a spiritual outlet and exploring my beliefs has helped me deal with the stress of being a college student.

Also physics isn’t scary! It’s built up to be scary, but especially here, if you’re willing to learn, our professors are willing to help you get it. Also try the smoothies at Naturals, Tanya is awesome.


Goodbye Note:

After four years of working on The Grizzly, it is time to pass the hat to the next Editor-in-Chief, Kate Horan. Kate will do an amazing job and I am so grateful I have worked with her during this time here. I would also like to thank the wonderful writing squad and the fantastic editors I definitely could not have done this without, as well as my first editor-in-chief, Simra Mariam for leading the way. Good luck Bears!