Wednesday, July 25, 2018

TAURUS Scholar Spotlight: Gabriella Sanchez

This week's TAURUS Scholar Spotlight focuses in Gabriella Sanchez, a rising senior at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa.  Gabriella's research focuses on gas outflows in nearby galaxies.  She recently sat down with her research mentor at UT, Dr. Justin Spilker, to discuss her path to TAURUS and what's in store for her future.

JS: Who are you/where are you from?

GS: I’m Gabriella Sanchez. 21 years old. I was born and raised on Oahu, Hawaii’s most populated island. I am the 5th of seven children. And will be the second to graduate from college next year. I’m majoring in astrophysics at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

JS: What inspired you to pursue a career in astronomy or science?
GS: Honestly, I thought it would be pretty cool. I was always interested in NASA and outer space. To me, astrophysics seemed like a challenge and the most interesting major of my choices. I wanted to pursue a career that made me think critically and that I would always be fascinated by. In addition, I specifically chose astrophysics because I was interested in astronomy, but I wanted to learn/use a lot of math (I like math) and physics concepts.

JS: What aspects of your life do you think led you to do astronomy?
GS: As a child, I was always curious. I think I thought about space a lot and always had the need to know what else is out there in the universe. My favorite movie at one point in elementary was Armageddon. I thought it was absolutely amazing! Of course, now that I’m more informed I see that it’s full of inaccuracies, but still… it’s a great movie! And perhaps the little kid in me dreamed of being an astronaut or discovering new objects in space.

JS: What are you most proud of so far in your life / career?
GS: I’m most proud of a lot of things that I’ve experienced so far this year. First, I’m proud of where I am mentally. I feel I grew so much as a person and an adult. I’m proud I finally took initiative in applying to REUs and got accepted into 3 out of 5. I’m proud I’ve made it even this far in my college education, and glad at how much I was able to push myself. Lastly, I’m incredibly proud of myself for accepting this TAURUS internship and finally braving the experience of leaving home and being on my own for the first time. It’s been one of the greatest experiences in my life so far!

JS: Wow, hopefully this summer doesn't disappoint! What mentors, teachers, or role models have been the most inspiring to you in your life?
GS: My biggest role models have definitely been my parents. They both didn’t have the opportunity to get a college education, didn’t come from “well-to-do” families. For so many years, they have struggled and sacrificed a lot, raising seven kids, but they always reminded us to work hard and to never do anything less than our best. Seeing them work so hard, and continue to do so, to provide for their family, and being able to give myself the opportunity for a better future and career has been my greatest motivation in life.

JS: Where to next? Where do you see yourself in 5, 10 years?

GS: In five years or so I see myself with better experience in the research field and working with other astronomers. I hope to be working on my masters/PhD. I don’t have an exact plan to follow. I’d like to take my time and experience different fields of work. I’d also like to start a family sooner rather than later in my life. At the moment, I’m looking towards having a career outside academia but staying within the astronomy community.

Spotlight shared by Prof. Caitlin Casey, director of the TAURUS program.

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