Madeline Overton and Kelcey Davis both participated in the Cal-Bridge program, a scholarship program for underrepresented minority students in physics, astronomy and computer science interested in pursuing a PhD.
Before coming to SDSU, Overton did not know anyone who in academia, so her engineer uncles influenced her decision to major in aerospace engineering. Taking an introductory astronomy class convinced her to switch her major to astronomy. “My experience in Astronomy has been really great. I did end up in the right spot,” she said.
After hearing about Cal-Bridge from someone in the Schwartz Astronomical Society, Overton applied initially because it was a scholarship. “It’s been so much more than that,” she said.
She got a sense for what doing research full-time would be like during her summer placement at the Carnegie Observatories. She gained a lot of programming skills that she’s continuing to develop with her senior thesis with Dr. Robert Quimby, examining an unusual light pattern of a dying star.
Additionally, Overton appreciated the professional development workshops Cal-Bridge offered. Learning the term ‘imposter syndrome’ from a workshop helped her put a name to feelings she was having and logically broke down the stereotype of geniuses in physics and astronomy usually being White men.
As a transfer student, Davis found her community at SDSU by doing astronomy research. “It was the best experience I did.” It allowed her to talk more with students and interact more directly with faculty members.
While at SDSU, Davis also joined the Transfer Student Outreach Alliance, which helped her connect with transfer students outside of STEM. She was grateful that her astronomy community and transfer community had a lot of overlap. “In large physics classes, most people don’t realize that they’re not the only person in the room that feels like they don’t belong or that is confused,” Davis said, “You don’t realize that until you start talking to other people.”
“Don’t feel like you have to prove yourself; you’ve proved yourself already just by showing up,” said Davis when asked what advice she would give to new transfer students, adding encouragement to get involved in research as soon as possible, “You can start right now. Nobody told me I could do that as a junior.”
“Since working from a young age, I could basically add, subtract and divide some things,” said Davis, “I failed a lot of classes but I kept going because I really wanted to go into STEM.” After her Cal-Bridge experience working with radio telescopes to study the first light in the universe, she is now earning her PhD at Brown University.
Applications to participate in Cal-Bridge summer research are due February 1st! Students in the process of transferring are also eligible to apply!