APS Honors 26 Minority Scholars in 2007-2008
Each new minority scholar receives $2,000, and the scholarship may be renewed once, for $3,000. This year the committee selected 18 new scholars and 8 renewals. The scholarship may be used for tuition, room and board, and educational materials. Each minority scholar is paired with a mentor at his or her university, and physics departments that host a minority scholar each receive $500 for programs to encourage minority students.
The scholarship is open to any African-American, Hispanic American, or Native American US citizen or permanent resident who is majoring or planning to major in physics, and who is a high school senior, college freshman, or sophomore.
New minority scholar Iara Cury has spent the past two summers doing research in astrophysics. Now beginning her junior year at Yale, Cury is originally from Brazil. She and her parents, who are both biologists, moved to California about seven years ago. Cury has always been interested in science and math, and her teachers and professors have been encouraging, she says. After her freshman year in college, she approached professor Meg Urry and asked for a summer research project. Urry was busy, so she sent Cury to Chile to work with Paulina Lira of the Universidad de Chile. Cury, who had little experience in astronomy at the time, quickly jumped into the project, which involved infrared spectroscopy of high redshift active galactic nuclei.
This summer, Cury is working at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where her research focuses on microlensing, a type of gravitational lensing. Cury plans to go to graduate school and earn a PhD in astrophysics, and eventually she wants to be a researcher or professor. “I would attribute all my success to hard work, and none of it to any special talent,” she said.
The counterintuitive nature of quantum mechanics attracted minority scholar Gabriel Mendoza to physics. Mendoza, who will be a freshman at Caltech this fall, was inspired to study physics after reading books on quantum mechanics and quantum field theory. He is also interested in quantum computation, and has already begun work in that area: while in high school, he did an independent research project that involved the creation of quantum distributed and cluster algorithms. This summer Mendoza is working on quantum information theory at Caltech’s Institute for Quantum Information (IQI). At Caltech, Mendoza plans to major in physics and computer science, and after graduate school, he hopes to “help engineer the computers of the future.”
Minority scholar Ana Brown, a sophomore at Stanford University from Arlington, Virginia, is concentrating on biophysics. During her senior year in high school, she worked at the Naval Research Lab. This summer, she’s working at the National Institutes of Health.
Growing up, she always enjoyed math and science, and her father, an engineer, encouraged her interest. She excelled in math, and likes physics, because “physics for me is math, but applied to real world situations,” she said.
Brown plans to focus on biophysics in order to help solve energy and environmental problems. “I really love nature, and I care about the environment and I want to spend time working to preserve it. I feel like I can do that and also pursue my passion for physics and math through biophysics,” she said. Brown hopes to earn a PhD in biophysics, and then go into academia. In addition to schoolwork, Brown plays on Stanford’s women’s Ultimate Frisbee team, one of the top teams in the country.
Christophe Schmitz, a minority scholar and freshman at Vassar College, is interested in using physics for engineering. In high school, Schmitz found his physics courses most interesting, and as he says, “I always was a mathematics kind of guy.” He hopes to go to graduate school after completing his bachelor’s degree in physics, and is considering studying mechanical or electrical engineering. In particular, “building bridges sounds great to me and I would be intrigued to do so,” he said.
More information about the scholarship can be found at http://www.aps.org/programs/minorities/honors/scholarship/index.cfm
Irene Toro Martinez
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Contributing Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff