Major/degree: Bachelor of Science, Astronomy
Home state/country: Born in Puerto Rico, raised in Florida
Current state/country: Sheffield, England
Why did you originally decide to study at Michigan?
My sister had gone to Michigan to get her master’s degree in education. I was fortunate enough to be accepted to all of the schools I applied to, and when it came time to make a decision, Michigan was very proactive in helping me be able to afford tuition. The more I learned about Michigan, the more excited I became.
I always wanted to study astronomy, and Michigan has a great program. As an undergrad, I got to do so much, and I realize now that not everywhere allows students to experience so much at a young age. To this day, a lot of experiences I bring to my professional career stem back to my time at Michigan.
I never expected to leave Florida. Several of my siblings went to school in Florida, and in my mind, I was thinking that’s where I would end up. When it became clear that I would be able to afford to go to Michigan because of financial support, it was really exciting for me.
How did scholarship support impact your time at Michigan? What was your experience as a scholarship student like?
One of the scholarships I received actually allowed me to meet the people that donated to the scholarship fund, and I thought that was a fantastic experience, to meet the people that were helping me to pursue my education. I fully plan on giving back as much as I am able in order to give future students the same opportunity that I was given.
I come from a very humble background. I’ve always been in public schools and I have a public education. One of the things that I appreciate about Michigan is that I received a quality education, but I never felt out of place because I wasn’t from a more affluent background. But I was still able to experience so many things that I hadn’t previously been exposed to. I don’t know if I would have had the same experience if I would have gone somewhere else.
Have you been back to Ann Arbor since graduation? What are some memories you have of campus?
I’ve been back 2 or 3 times since I graduated. I spent a lot of my Friday nights at the observatory. I was part of the Student Astronomical Society, and we ran these open houses every two weeks. We got to use and run the planetarium, which I don’t think I would have that opportunity anywhere else, it was a great experience. I love that campus was a community in itself, and that beautiful places like the Arb exist right off of campus.
What ways have you found to keep in touch with the Michigan community while living outside of the US?
I never considered myself much of a sports fan before I was at Michigan, but now I still follow news on the football team to see how they are doing!
Are there any interesting projects that you’re currently working on in your personal or professional life?
I was hired to work on a project at the University of Sheffield that uses Hubble data to look at a cluster of stars in one of the smaller galaxies around the Milky Way. This cluster is a very bright bit of the galaxy, and up until the 1960’s, it was thought to be a star thousands of times the size of our sun. With better instrumentation, we were able to observe that there are actually a bunch of stars within this very bright dot—several hundred stars, in fact. What my team determined was that the brightest stars are still really massive, and the question became, are these really massive stars or more clusters of smaller stars? We don’t think there are stars that big in our galaxy, but there may be ones that big in other galaxies.
What was exciting about our results is that we have confirmation that these stars really are as big as we first believed them to be. We were the first group to do a mass estimate for them, around 2010. I’ll be continuing this research when I return to the States to teach.
You were recently nominated for the People en Español’s “25 Most Powerful Latina Women in 2016.” How did that come about?
We had a publication earlier this year on the results of our study, and a family friend that works for Telemundo saw the press release and mentioned it to the news anchor she works with, who is also Puerto Rican. The anchor, María Celeste Arrarás, had the opportunity to nominate me for the People en Español’s up-and-coming powerful Latina women. I was contacted about the nomination and spread the word to family and friends. There was a public poll and I ended up being the runner-up for that competition. It was very exciting to be nominated!
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