The first time, she was a high school student in Poland. As a lover of mathematics, Dobrowolska-Furdyna realized that physics was fun. She loves to solve puzzles, and she has the ability to put together parts and pieces and make sense of them.
“Solving physics problems came easily to me, and then to my dismay, not to my classmates. But that goes to your head, because then you think that you’re smart,” she says.
The second time, she had been accepted as one of 300 students in the physics department at Warsaw University. At the end of the year, only 100 remained. And though Dobrowolska-Furdyna was among that fortunate third, the rigor of the program became daunting. Physics was no longer as easy as she thought it was.
“And that also goes to your head, and you begin to think, ‘I’m probably not that smart after all,’ because it’s easy for this guy and that guy … and that’s a feeling I still remember,” said Dobrowolska-Furdyna, now the Rev. John Cardinal O’Hara, C.S.C., Professor of Physics and associate dean for undergraduate studies in the College of Science.