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The APS Committee on Minorities has selected 27 students for the 2006-2007 Scholarship for Minority Undergraduate Physics Majors.
Each new scholarship is for of $2,000 and may be renewed once at a level of $3,000. This year the committee selected 13 new scholars and 14 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. Physics departments that host a minority scholar each receive $500.
New minority scholar Ana Berrizbeitia is intrigued by the possibility of a theory of everything. “The idea of trying to combine the laws of gravity with quantum physics, that they’re trying to find an equation that describes the universe in a nutshell, I just thought it was fascinating,” she said. Her love of physics was inspired in part by her high school physics teacher, and in part by popular science books, especially works by Stephen Hawking and Richard Feynman.
Berrizbeitia, originally from Venezuela, is now beginning her sophomore year at the University of Texas at Austin as a double major in physics and math. Her father, a math professor, encouraged her early interest in math. But after taking a physics course in high school, she found that physics had more real-life applications. “I thought physics was a wonderful example of what you need all this math for,” she said.
Berrizbeitia is planning to participate in undergraduate research soon, and after completing her undergraduate education, she hopes to pursue a PhD and ultimately become a professor, since she likes teaching as well as research. She also enjoys painting, singing, theater, and playing soccer. She considered art as a career, and has thought about getting a minor in theater, but says she finds physics and math more intellectually stimulating, as well as offering better career options.
Minority scholar Amanda McCoy plans to use her knowledge of physics in a medical career. McCoy, who is from Pittsburgh and is starting her junior year at Harvard, also says her high school physics teacher really sparked her interest in the subject, though she had always enjoyed math and science. “My high school physics teacher was great. It just kind of clicked,” she said.
McCoy’s goal is to become a doctor, possibly with a specialty in radiology or radiation oncology, because those fields are closely related to physics. This summer, she is engaged in interdisciplinary research as part of the Bioengineering and Bioinformatics Summer Institute at the University of Pittsburgh, where she is developing computer simulations to explore the dynamics of complicated proteins and systems. At Harvard, McCoy’s activities include cheerleading, active involvement in the Harvard Society of Black Scientists and Engineers, and serving as a course assistant for calculus classes.
Lisa Hines likes physics for the challenge it presents. She recalls that around the time she was in seventh grade, she was told that physics was the hardest subject. Instead of being scared, she was determined to challenge herself to try it. So she took physics in high school, and found that she liked it and was good at it. Hines, who grew up in Piscataway, NJ, is now double majoring in physics and astronomy at Penn State University. Hines says she still finds the subject challenging sometimes, but she is inspired by her love of science. Although she sometimes feels out of place as one of the few female or minority students in physics or astronomy, that further motivates her to do her best. “I want to make a good example of myself,” she said. This summer she is conducting research on quasars and spectroscopy at Penn State, and she plans to become a researcher one day. She likes dancing, especially ballet, and says her dream is to live in California.
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. More information about the scholarship
New minority scholars:
Richard Molina Jr.
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