Brittney Hauke

Volunteer Spotlight: Brittney Hauke

We have all done it. You rush out the door with your hands full of coffee, keys, and your all-important smart phone. Then, in a scene that unfolds in slow motion, you feel your phone slipping through your hands, watching in horror as it crashes to the pavement. And you know it immediately. There is a huge crack in the middle of your screen that will only get worse.

I bet you never thought about who is out there helping us work toward a future where no screen cracks. Well, let us introduce you to Brittney Hauke. We met Brittney through her incredible volunteer efforts with the Society of Physics Students, and her resume is impressive. She received bachelor’s degrees in both physics and studio art from Coe College in 2017 and graduated with a master’s in materials science from Arizona State University in 2019. Since Brittney was an undergraduate she has been a local and national leader in the Society of Physics Students, and she served on the program committees for the 2016, 2019, and 2025 Physics Congresses. But why is Brittney a part of our collective smart phone future?

Brittney is pursuing her PhD in materials science and engineering at Penn State University where she studies glass and how changes in its structure can influence its properties. You know, like the glass in your smart phone screen. As Brittney explains it, “Your smart phone screen undergoes a heat treatment process called ion exchange to strengthen it, and that process is continually getting better, as well as developing better glass compositions that naturally defend against cracks. When newer models come out, your phone is hopefully better at resisting cracks.” While Brittney’s research focuses on synthesizing glass samples and running characterization experiments on them, the field she works in impacts our lives, from smart phones to fiber optics to LCD TVs

The amazing part of supporting the Society of Physics Students is that you lift up young scientists, just like Brittney, who are a part of an up-and-coming generation that is passionate about making science accessible to a broader community. Brittney shared, “I oftentimes catch scientists getting bogged down in the details of their work, making it difficult for the general public to understand the bigger implications of scientific research.” Brittney using her voice to share how science shapes our lives gives us hope for the future.

And Brittney’s voice is much needed. Physics and astronomy departments must do a better job of creating inclusive environments for underrepresented students. That experience has taught Brittney a lot. A key part of transforming university departments, as Brittney sees it, is hiring professors from a diverse background. “And once diverse professors are hired, it’s vital to make sure they have the resources they need to thrive. It’s essential that they’re supported through the many obstacles they face before receiving tenure. If not, who will become the leaders of tomorrow that can bring about the next set of essential changes in departments and help students?”

Brittney’s involvement in the Society of Physics Students has spanned over five years, and her contributions, especially to the Physics Congresses, have been immeasurable. Her leadership has created opportunities for student engagement where people can find a diverse physics family, connect with SPS chapters, and make the most of their Physics Congress experience. Brittney’s voice is a critical part of the future generation of scientists, and with your continued support of the Society of Physics Students, Brittney will continue to use her platform for positive change.