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Samantha Scibelli: 2017 NSF Graduate Research Fellow

Samantha Scibelli
Samantha Scibelli

Samantha Scibelli

Major: Physics
Hometown: Burnt Hills, NY

What is your research focus, and how might your research change the world?
My research focus is in astrophysics, specifically in star formation where I use long-wavelength telescopes to peer into the depths of dense clouds to uncover the origins of stars and planets. Every day science is changing the world! One of the best thing about research is being able to say that you have uncovered something (perhaps a new law of physics) that nobody else has seen before and sharing that with the rest of the world. For me, understanding our place in the universe through astronomical observations tells us about our own human experience – considering it’s amazing that us humans can even ask such questions!

How does it feel to earn this fellowship, and how will this fellowship enhance your research?
It feels incredible! I worked so hard on this application so it is truly amazing to see all of my hard work paying off! This fellowship allows me to focus on the research that interests me and gives me the freedom to collaborate with faculty as well as the opportunity to run with my own ideas.

What advice can you share with other students applying for the NSF GRF?
I think you have to have a strong research background and clear idea of why you want this award and what you will do if/when you get it. Once you have a strong resume, I would suggest seeking out past winners and have them help you outline your essays. I was lucky enough to have a peer help me with the construction of my personal statement. It was extremely helpful because they could easily tell me what kinds of things I needed to add or get rid of in order to make my application that much more competitive. Overall you should be really passionate and excited about the research you want to do and that will show through in your application!

How did your experience as an undergrad at Stony Brook help you become competitive for this award?
I was able to participate in research through the Physics and Astronomy department with Professor Rosalba Perna starting at the end of my second year. Because of this, I was granted a PSEG 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 department was flexible enough to allow me to take off a semester to conduct an external internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA where I completed a separate astronomy project which resulted in a publication to which I am a co-author. These experiences are just a few of many that made me competitive for this award.

Where will you attend graduate school this fall? How has receiving the GRF influenced your choice?
I will be pursuing my PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics at The University of Arizona in the fall. The NSF GRF award has allowed me the freedom to work with any advisor I want to work with, which is great since Arizona has a large department with a lot of excellent faculty!

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