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Carrie Weidner

Affiliation: 

JILA

Memory/Sentiment: 

I met Debbie when I was only 19. For the next 6 or 7 years, we would play softball together every summer for the JILA team. As we played, I went from an undergrad, to working in industry, to grad school. Jackie went from a very young girl to a young woman, always laconic but kind, tolerating the occasional question from me about school and what she was doing that summer. John and I would take turns writing the JILA Monsters recap for the JILA news, trying our best to cast a beer league softball team in the same light as the Rockies (whether or not we should have emulated the Rockies some years is another story...). Debbie was always there (unless science pursuits dictated otherwise), enthusiastic and ready to play.

She likely had no idea how much I looked up to her, as I knew what she accomplished as a woman in science. To do all of that and still play softball--it was something so human on top of these amazing achievements. Playing on the JILA team helped me realize that professors were normal people with lives, families, and hobbies outside of the hallowed halls of our institute.

I did not interact with her much scientifically, but one story stands out. Last year, at the JILA poster fest, she comes to my poster and starts asking questions. As an applied physicist in JILA, one can feel a bit out of place, and this was no exception. Nervously, I start to explain my research, answering her inquiries as best I could. To me, she seems to be glaring at my poster, and I'm starting to sweat. How can I be a scientist in my own right if I can't explain myself to one of my role models? Finally, I said something, and I could see it click. Her face softened, and we finished our conversation amicably. I look back on that moment favorably--she was able to make me think about my work in a different way and challenge me, and those experiences can help a young scientist immensely. I am thankful to have had that interaction with her.

Jackie, your mom was a great woman, and I believe that you will grow up to be a great woman yourself. Take heart in these difficult times that the lives that she touched were numerous and spanned the globe.