Alexa LaPierre '20 Shines in Vox's 'Science, Explained'

Portrait of Alexa LaPierre
Alexa LaPierre '20 / Photo via Vox


Alexa LaPierre '20 is making waves in the scientific community after being featured in a popular Vox video series, "Science, Explained." The video has received nearly 5 million views and explores the scientific community's emerging understanding of how atomic matter behaves under extreme pressures, such as planetary cores.

LaPierre earned a degree in chemistry with a minor in physics from SUNY Geneseo and has been working on an ambitious project at the University of Rochester's Lab for Laser Energetics (LLE). She is developing a Raman spectrometer to observe new phases of matter that exist for mere nanoseconds under extreme pressures. This research has implications for understanding planetary dynamics and materials that can hold a lot of energy in a small space.

Reflecting on her Geneseo journey, LaPierre credits her undergraduate research with Stephen Padalino, Distinguished Teaching Professor of Physics, and Jeffrey Peterson, associate professor of chemistry, for preparing her for graduate studies. "It helped me figure out my research interests and pursue them passionately," she says. Additionally, her experience as a student-athlete, she says, taught her crucial time-management skills.

One of her most cherished Geneseo memories is winning SUNYACS with the track and field team, especially during her last winter season. "Being on the podium with friends and achieving personal goals was unparalleled," LaPierre says. "There's no better feeling." 

LaPierre credits the pursuit of her PhD to Padalino. "Dr. Padalino has been a guiding light since my sophomore year, inspiring me to pursue high energy density science," she says. "No one else in my immediate family has a PhD, so I had never really considered that possibility until he encouraged me to apply for graduate school. I am very grateful to him for putting me on this path toward high energy density science.

Looking ahead, LaPierre hopes to continue her study of high-energy density materials, aspiring to work with the LLE or a national lab.