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Jasmine Garani ’18: Stony Brook’s Space Ninja

Jasmine Garani’s research is out of this world. The astronomy and physics double major ’18 was selected from a field of applicants this summer to study exoplanets, which are planets outside of our solar system.

Jasmine Garani
Jasmine Garani presents her research at URECA Celebration.

Jasmine, who hails from Sharon, Massachusetts, is earning a stipend while working with her mentors, astronomer Franck Marchis and postdoctoral fellow Eric Nielsen, as part of the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates at the SETI Institute in California’s Silicon Valley. SETI stands for Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.

Nielsen took pictures of stars with the Keck telescope a few years ago and Jasmine is working with those pictures, trying to eliminate all of the extra light, bad pixels and other interferences in an attempt to identify brown dwarf (low mass) stars and possibly a planet orbiting one of these stars.

“If we do find a planet, that means we have one more exoplanets to add to the ongoing list of 2000 that we can study further to learn about planets outside of our solar system,” Jasmine said.

American astronomer and astrophysicist Frank Drake formulated an equation that bears his name, which predicts how many intelligent civilizations there are in the galaxy. “It’s not an actual equation that you can calculate to get an exact answer but it tells us what we need to know in order to know how many intelligent civilizations there are in our galaxy,” said Jasmine.

Closer to home, Jasmine also holds a Third Degree black belt in Uechi-ryū Karate.

Jasmine Garani
Jasmine with postdoctoral fellow Eric Nielsen at the SETI Institute

When she was not grappling with the big questions about dark matter, black holes and extraterrestrial life, Jasmine taught karate during summer breaks to children ages 4-14 at The Maplewood Country Day Camp and Enrichment Center in South Easton, Massachusetts.

Jasmine’s seriousness of purpose came at an early age. She began karate when her mother signed her up for instruction at age 4. The next year she told her mother she wanted to be an astronomer. As a senior in high school, Jasmine took courses in chemistry, physics and astronomy and by her sophomore year at Stony Brook, she had narrowed her focus to physics and astronomy.

“Karate has taught me respect and discipline, and the discipline helps me to focus on things such as homework, so I do not get distracted. Karate also introduced me to teaching. I began helping out with younger students at my dojo when I was 12 and got a job teaching karate at the summer camp when I was 16,” she said.

Although Jasmine may not always continue with the Uechi-ryū style of karate, she said she wants to always practice some form of martial arts.

As a scientist, Jasmine has quietly assembled an impressive portfolio at Stony Brook, beginning with her acceptance into the Women In Science and Engineering (WISE) program. That led to a research opportunity with John Noé, executive director of the Stony Brook Laser Teaching Center.

Noé invites physics students in the WISE program to participate in Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities presentations. In 2015, while working with Noé, Jasmine researched polarization. Her research project in 2016, with Associate Professor Michael Zingale, Department of Physics and Astronomy, focused on how a flame propagates on a neutron star.

For sheer fun, Jasmine, as a member of the Astronomy Club, periodically made frequent trips to the roof of the Earth and Space Sciences Building to peer at the heavens through the telescope at The Mount Stony Brook Observatory.

“I have always been someone who thinks about science and space. Right now my plan is to go to graduate school and get my PhD,” said Jasmine. “I would love to be a professor at a research university someday. I have also really enjoyed teaching and working with kids, and this is what has made me consider becoming a professor.”

— Glenn Jochum

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