Holly Gummelt

‘Any opportunity I saw, I took it’

With her orange hair and extensive tattoos, Holly Gummelt is changing the image of a physics nerd. The first physics major at the University of Washington Bothell, Gummelt started a physics club. She launched a Society of Physics Students Chapter and brought Sigma Pi Sigma, the organization’s honor society, to campus. As part of the Trickfire Robotics club, she helped build a 80-kilogram (176-pound) robot for a NASA competition to simulate mining on Mars. And she worked as a grader, peer facilitator and tutor at Quantitative Skills Center.

“I just hit the ground running. Any opportunity that I saw, I took it. Each piece has been absolutely worth it,” says Gummelt, who transferred to UW Bothell two years ago from a community college.

At the University, she also was part of Assistant Professor Joey Key’s gravitational wave astronomy group, for which Gummelt won a Founders Fellow Research Scholarship.

Graduating in June in physics, Gummelt plans to earn a Master of Science in engineering degree at the University of Washington in Seattle. Her goal is to design and build rockets. She has an internship at Planetary Resources, the Redmond, Washington, company developing technology to mine asteroids.

Physics and engineering degrees would build on an earlier bachelor’s in fine art and her previous work as a welder, creating large kinetic metal sculptures.

“A rocket ship is like a large kinetic sculpture doing all the right things at the right time,” Gummelt says.