Alumni, Physics and Astronomy
Hello Samantha, tell me a little about yourself...
I graduated from Stony Brook in January of 2017, double majoring in physics and astronomy. I’ve been participating in research since I was a sophomore in high school. I am currently working on an astronomy project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA, which I began right after graduation.
How did you choose what research project to work on? How did you get involved with this research?
Beginning at a young age I developed a general passion for science, which has led me towards a career in research. I’ve always been curious, thinking about how the world works and how we can learn about it through equations and experiments. What drew me to astrophysics is the idea that it is the basis of study for the entire universe, from the most elementary of particles, such as neutrinos, up to the largest and most distant galaxy structures studied. I have worked on numerous projects since high school, but my current research topic at JPL is one that I developed a specific fondness for - understanding how stars form. I use data from long-wavelength telescopes to peer into the depths of dense clouds to uncover the origins of stars and planets. My involvement with NASA began when I applied to an opportunity through their internship portal ( https://intern.nasa.gov/ossi/web/students/login/ ) and was contacted by the education department once my application had been accepted.
Do you have any advice for other undergraduate women in WISE with regard to pursuing research or succeeding as a researcher?
My general advice would be to keep bugging professors and stay passionate. If you really want to pursue a specific project, read up on it. Take the time to go through journal papers even if you can’t understand everything. Once you’ve done enough research/reading on your own, contact professors whose work interests you and discuss with them the papers they’ve written. Keep reaching out to professors even if you get a rejection or no reply, remember that the majority of the time it has nothing to do with you and your abilities, but simply that some professors are too busy to take on more students. Additionally, surround yourself with peers who are equally as driven as you. I recommend picking a research topic you would want to read about in your spare time. If you love what you do then it will never feel like work! :)
In what ways has being apart of the WISE program helped you succeed in your undergraduate program/internships/jobs?
Because of WISE, I was able to participate in independent research at the Laser Teaching Center, which in turn prepared me to begin a faculty driven research project through the Physics and Astronomy department with Professor Rosalba Perna. As a result of this, I was granted a Public Service Enterprise grant through the Exploration in STEM program at Stony Brook to continue this research over the summer, where I gained additional experience and was honored as Stony Brook’s undergraduate researcher of the month. Additionally, the WISE program was flexible enough to allow me to take off time to conduct external internships at Jet Propulsion Laboratory where I completed a separate astronomy project which resulted in a publication that I co-authored. These experiences are just a few of many that represent how WISE has helped me succeed in my undergraduate research career.
Do you have a favorite research moment?
I have had many memorable research moments, but perhaps my favorite was when my research was featured in multiple online astronomy magazines (e.g. https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=6639 ). It was so surreal to see an artist’s rendition of my own work!
What do you want to do after you graduate?
I will be pursuing my PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics at The University of Arizona in the fall as a National Science Foundation (NSF) Fellow.
See this link: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=6639 that Samantha provided to learn more about her research project.