Giannina Guzman ’19 CLAS knows the expansive educational opportunities there are in the astronomy lab. She’s spent hours digitizing archival data from the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics—data that could contribute to NASA’s Kepler and K2 collections of stars known as eclipsing binaries. Such stars comprise only two percent of known stars, and the precise determination of their stellar properties is critical to many branches of astrophysics, from studying the life cycles of stars to determining distances throughout the universe.
Giannina is participating in rigorous research, but that’s not her only passion for the project. She is also interested in scientific public outreach and education, which is why she opted to pair her Astrophysics major with a Communication minor.
“I'm not only doing research, but I'm preserving the history of the department and communicating buried information to the world,” she says. “This joins both of the things I'd love to do.”
With opportunities to take part in hands-on research as early as their freshman year, students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences are intellectually inspired. Giannina was thrilled to take on this research project under the guidance of Andrej Prsa, PhD, professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and the experience has taught her not only the value of research for her education but also for the academic community.
“It’s all about knowing we have a responsibility towards the people helping us and the communities to which our research will contribute,” Giannina says. “The feeling of contributing to some bigger community is one of the most satisfying feelings I have from this experience.”
Giannina admits taking on leadership roles and learning new information has been challenging in her research experience, but she also believes the hurdles have been the most rewarding aspects of the project.
“It’s always good to remember that innovations and great things don’t happen in comfort zones,” she says. “Stepping out of mine has definitely given me new insights to my own potential.”