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Samantha Usman receives highly competitive Astronaut Scholarship to help further her astrophysics research

July 8, 2015, by Amy Manley

Samantha Usman '16
Samantha Usman '16

A rising senior in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences is flying high upon learning of her latest academic achievement.

Samantha Usman ’16, a double major in physics and mathematics, has just been named a recipient of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation’s (ASF) award. She will use the $10,000 prize to continue her research on gravitational waves with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational- Wave Observatory (LIGO) group at Syracuse.

Originally created by the Mercury 7 astronauts, the ASF is a non-profit organization backed by more than 100 of America’s space pioneers from Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and Space Shuttle programs. The organization’s mission is to provide scholarships and support to the brightest students in the country pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, otherwise known as the STEM disciplines.

According to her faculty mentors in the Department of Physics, it was practically written in the heavens that Usman would find success in her academic career.

“I’m thrilled that Samantha has been recognized with an Astronaut Scholarship. Through her undergraduate research project, Sam has already made important contributions to the way that LIGO searches for colliding neutron stars and black holes. These contributions have been broadly recognized,” says Duncan Brown, associate professor of physics. “Sam has tremendous potential and I’m sure that she will soon be a leader in the field of gravitational-wave astrophysics.”

Usman learned of her award during her summer internship on the West Coast. She is currently working at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) studying the use of gravitational waves from colliding neutron stars to understand the physics of matter at very high densities. When she returns to Syracuse in the fall, she will continue this work for her capstone thesis as part of the Renée Crown University Honors program.

“I’ve always loved mathematics, but I find it particularly beautiful when it describes nature,” explains Usman, who is also minoring in French. “I feel fortunate that I have worked with Professor Brown since my freshman year. I’ve learned so much and have accomplished more than I have ever thought possible.”

Upon graduation next May, Usman will begin her pursuit of a doctorate in physics.

“I plan on applying for a Fulbright or Marshall scholarship to study abroad for one year before returning to the United States to complete my Ph.D. in Physics,” says the Pittsburgh, PA native. “Following that, I hope to continue my research as a post-doctoral researcher and eventually as a professor at a university in the U.S.”


For more information about nominations for the Astronaut Scholarship and other nationally competitive scholarships, contact the Syracuse University Center for Fellowship & Scholarship Advising.

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Amy Manley