On a Roller Coaster Ride

Roller Coaster Ride

Showing her senior project at Quest 2013, Katharyn Christiana ’13 demonstrates the place of physics in amusement rides. She works in industrial safety at M&E Manufacturing, Kingston, N.Y.

Katharyn Christiana ’13 would like to put you on a ride that flips you around 32 times in a minute. Sound like fun? Not if your eyeballs pop out of your head.

Roller coasters grow more and more extreme, but to make them safe — or even feasible — designers have to consider physics.

“I was always interested in roller coasters,” says Christiana. Her senior thesis as a physics major at Oswego may have turned that interest into a career. “Whatever you want to do, just
do it, professors told me.”

That thesis earned her coverage in the Washington Post when she traveled to Baltimore in spring 2013 to give a presentation at the American Physical Science Conference.

“You’re walking as much on the edge as you can be, but still feel safe to some degree,” she says of the amusement’s allure. Her love of envelope-pushing roller coasters developed with a childhood attraction to Disney theme parks.

Is she a thrill-seeker? Not necessarily. But, she’s never said “no” to a ride.

The industry is predominantly about safety, and that’s what she is focused on now. After years of studying trajectory and G forces, she says it’s time to explore design, a key motivator behind her plan to pursue a mechanical engineering master’s degree.

She’ll keep looking for ways to expand the limits and, thanks to Oswego, it looks like Christiana’s in for quite a ride.

— Shane M. Liebler

 Read more stories of Alumni in the Sciences

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