After five years of hard work, continuous involvement in student activities and impressive research, Chris Klenke is finally ready to graduate.
Klenke is a senior double majoring in general math and physics, with an emphasis in astronomy and astrophysics, and a computer science minor.
He said he likes math and physics for reasons other than the typical, “there’s always a right answer.”
“The way you explain the world and everything in our daily lives, you do with math,” Klenke said. “Physics is the application of that and I think that’s really cool.”
Klenke has studied at Missouri State for five years due to his double major.
He said it took a long time to finish, but everything was worth it.
During some of his math classes, he realized that he wasn’t applying the math to physics, but decided to keep going because he enjoyed the classes so much.
However, the journey hasn’t all been smooth sailing.
“I’ve had a math class where I was going into a final thinking, ‘Man, I have no idea about anything in the whole class,’” Klenke said. “I felt like I really squandered that class and didn’t approach it right or try hard enough.”
After being upset with himself and thinking he failed the course, he ended up passing with a C.
One of the upsides from his academic career at Missouri State University was getting accepted into the doctoral program for physics at the University of Arkansas.
“I would not have been able to do that without my opportunities here,” Klenke said.
He has also done multiple research projects.
He studied certain atoms’ and molecules’ behavior in certain environments, got second place at a conference when his presentation didn’t work and was on a research team that discovered a planet in another solar system.
“I answered a lot of my personal philosophical questions about the history of the universe,” Klenke said.
Klenke loves astronomy because it makes humans feel insignificant.
“Studying Jupiter, it doesn’t care about our politics or our problems,” Klenke said. “It is still going to be orbiting the sun with four Galilean moons and six rings. It’s going to keep doing what it’s doing. It doesn’t care.”
Klenke said it was hard to articulate, but astronomy is “really cool.”
Aside from taking classes, Klenke has been involved in multiple clubs and organizations.
He is a member of Alpha Kappa Lambda and has been on his fraternity’s council for a few years. He was also the Chief Commissioner of Sustainability for the Student Government Association and was involved in approximately 11 organizations at once.
Yadira Gaibor, sophomore physics major, met Klenke at the beginning of her freshman year at the Society of Physics Students club.
Gaibor is the current president of Society of Physics Students, thanks to Klenke.
“He is actually the one who pushed me to be president,” Gaibor said. “I don’t think I could have nominated myself.”
Klenke said he would help Gaibor transition to be president and help her along the way.
Gaibor said Klenke is one of the smartest people she knows, even if he doesn’t want to admit it.
“He asks really good questions, and in physics that is important,” Gaibor said. “He’s someone I look up to.”
She said Klenke is a nice and funny person who will try to help others in any way he can.
“He is someone you can always count on for anything,” Gaibor said.
While he has not had any outside jobs, Klenke has been a research assistant for multiple professors since his sophomore year.
One example is when he heated up rocks at 3,000 degrees celsius to simulate planets that orbit close to their stars.
Currently, he plans to get his Ph.D. As far as what he will do after completing his doctorate, he doesn’t know.
With so much to include on his resume in the future, Klenke said he isn’t going to worry about what he will do until the time comes.
“It would be cool to be a professor because I like research,” Klenke said. “But I don’t know, I’m not there yet.”