Student Insider: Sophia Nasr

NAME: Sophia Nasr,

SCHOOL: York University

DEGREE: Bachelor of Science in Astrophysics

GRADUATION YEAR: 2016

My interest in space and astronomy started long ago when my mom used to take me out for meteor showers as a child. I wanted to know what these “shooting stars” were (which I discovered that of course, they weren’t shooting stars at all, but rather, debris burning up in Earth’s atmosphere). My interests later progressed, and I became curious about how vast space was, how many star systems out there had planets, and how many of these could support life. Later still, my curiosity peaked with black holes; what are these beasts? And dark matter! What is it? This, the vastness of the universe and the beauty it holds is what has had me completely mesmerized with astronomy since childhood.

Aside from classes and research, I am also the president of the Astronomy Club at York University. Our club is dedicated to helping share astronomical knowledge with everyone. The way we accomplish this is by bringing in professors and graduate students to talk about interesting topics in astronomy, including the research they specialize in. Other things we do include field trips, including going to major observatories, like the Algonquin Radio Observatory. We also hold star parties where members get to come out and look at objects in the night sky through telescopes! 

Other ways I participate in astronomical outreach is through social media. One of the best positions I’ve gotten was as a writer for Pluto Safari, an app that closely followed the New Horizons mission. Through this opportunity, I learned a lot about New Horizons and the Pluto system, and even wrote an article about Pluto’s atmosphere that went up on Space.com! This was one of the best experiences of my life. 

At York University, we have high school students who come in as co-op students and do projects using the telescope. We also have high school students volunteering as well. Doing this will help give you hands-on experience with working with a telescope. 

For students already in university anytime you come across something you don’t understand, ask questions. Another thing that is really important is to find out how you study best. For some people, group study works great and can be extremely helpful. But for others, including myself, studying in a group may not work as well as studying alone. This is something you need to figure out quickly so that you know what works for you.

Perhaps the most important thing I would recommend is to do research. It’s only when you start working on something that you will learn whether it is really what you want to do. Not only this, but when you apply to grad school, research is a huge asset! It gives you special experience that others may not have, and could be the very thing that will get you into the school of your choice.