Illinois GPS (Guidance for Physics Students) is a community of undergraduate and graduate students in the physics department at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  The program is student-initiated and run, and was created to connect our two physics communities so we can be resources for one another, via one-on-one graduate-undergraduate mentoring and community-wide social and academic events, including an annual summer retreat.  Its intention is to create an inclusive, cohesive, and welcoming community to voice concerns or ask questions.  We particularly hope to act as an anchor for students who may have a hard time connecting or feeling confident in their place within physics, such as transfer students, first generation students, and traditionally underrepresented groups in STEM.

GPS offers several services to students, including:

  • One on one mentoring between grads and undergrads
  • Social activities: bake-offs, movie nights, laser tag, pumpkin carving, etc.
  • Academic/information events:  diversity panel, experimental physicist panel, lab tours, stress workshop, “how to apply to grad school” workshop, etc.
  • Summer retreat: two-day camping trip with games/ice-breakers/competitions, etc




Assembly Fellow (2019, 2020): Karmela Padavić-Callaghan (she/her/hers), (institutional), (non-institutional), (website)

Karmela holds a Ph. D. in theoretical condensed matter and atomic, molecular, optical (AMO) physics. Her doctoral work focused on Bose-Einstein condensates in novel geometries and one-dimensional quasiperiodic systems. In addition to her academic work, she is committed to working with organizations and initiatives within the physics community in order to foster inclusivity, equity and diversity. She has served in a leadership role within Illinois Guidance for Physics Students mentoring program, the Women and Gender Minorities in Physics and Astronomy organizing group, acted as a Diversity Advocate on the Engineering Graduate Students Advisory Committee and a co-treasurer of the Graduate Employee Organization at UIUC. Karmela holds Bachelor’s degrees in Physics and Mathematics from the University of Chicago and has been multiply published in Physical Review journals. Her non-fiction writing has been published on the Scientific American Opinion blog, the Xylom and the Lifeology blog. Currently, she is writing the Ultracold newsletter on Substack.

Network Fellow (2020): Devyn Shafer (she/her/hers)

Devyn is a fourth-year PhD student in physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She completed her B.A. in physics at the University of Pennsylvania, her M.S. in materials science and engineering at UC-San Diego, and her M.S. in physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research is in physics education. She works to better understand struggles students face and look for solutions to help students succeed and increase equity in undergraduate engineering. She is passionate about teaching and mentoring to help students grow as scientists and engineers and as people. In her free time, She enjoys hiking and spending time with her dog and chickens.

Network Fellow (2020): Mayisha Nakib (she/her/hers), (institutional) (non-institutional)

Mayisha is a fifth-year PhD student in physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She completed her B.S. in physics and math and B.A. in biology at Southern Methodist University. Her research interests is in soft condensed matter applied to biological problems and applying information theory to biological computing. She would like to help make physics and STEM a more inclusive and safe environment for everyone. In her free time, she enjoys painting, piano, and hiking.


Past Fellows:

Jamie Milota, Network Fellow 2019

Damerrick Perry, Assembly Fellow 2019

Karmela Padavić-Callaghan, Assembly Fellow 2019

Luis Miguel de Jesús Astacio, Assembly Fellow 2018, 2019

Damerrick Perry, Network Fellow 2018

Jake Rangel, Network Fellow 2017