Get Involved in the Community

by student and guest blogger Tessa Frederick, senior in GSIS, Chinese Track and Honors Student Association

Being an Embry-Riddle student means more than just being a regular attendee in your classes each day. As a student at the Prescott campus, you play a vital role in the on-campus and greater off-campus communities that you are a part of.

Getting involved on campus has provided me an unparalleled opportunity to participate in the Embry-Riddle and Prescott communities, particularly as a member of the Honors Student Association on campus. From blanket making, to thrift store sorting, to outdoor trail maintenance, it certainly feels like we’ve done it all! We regularly work with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and The Spot (a local science museum for children) to help them meet their organizational needs.

Forensics Night at the Spot Museum

Forensics Night at the Spot Museum

The best parts of serving in the Prescott community include having the opportunity to make new connections, and being able to positively represent Embry-Riddle. The understanding of the community that actively participating in service provides is incredibly valuable, and truly contributes to the university experience.

Although we love to help out in the Prescott community, participating in service on campus is just as valuable and rewarding. Embry-Riddle’s Prescott campus may be small, but we definitely have a strong sense of community! Lately, the Honors Student Association has been pushing to participate in more campus events. Embry-Riddle students put on amazing events every week, and the opportunities to serve the on campus community through these events are endless. We’ve helped organizations across the board, ranging from the Society of Women Engineers to the TEDx task force. When you visit events such as Preview Day, chances are that you’ve interacted with students serving their Embry-Riddle community.

Project Linus Service Meeting

Project Linus s

Once you’re at Embry-Riddle, your sense of community and service permanently changes. There are so many ways to give back to your communities, and all it takes is a service mindset and the willingness to get involved. If you’re interested in some of the events I’ve mentioned, check out Embry-Riddle’s Control Tower website to get a feel for what service events are going on now. If you don’t see anything you want to participate in, don’t hesitate to reach out and take charge of service in your own way. Whatever your choice is, remember that being a part of the Embry-Riddle community is an incredible experience. Take the chance to give back!

LIGO Proved Gravitational Waves Exist and I Helped!

Sophia interferometers (002)Well the cat’s out of the bag: the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory Collaboration, or the LIGO Collaboration, has detected and confirmed the existence of gravitational waves.  Finally, I don’t have to giggle to myself as my friends ask why I am doing research on a project that had such a small chance of success.  Finally, I don’t have to keep secret about one of the biggest discoveries in the modern science, something I have known about since September when it was detected.  It is an exciting time, not just to see the amazing results of a project that I am a small, insignificant part of, but also because that means that a completely new field of research has just opened up, gravitational wave astronomy.

Gravitational wave

Gravitational wave

First, let me explain a bit about gravitational waves, if you haven’t already seen the countless videos.  Gravitational waves were first predicted by Einstein in 1916 when he formulated the idea of general relativity.

Blackhole

Blackhole

Collision

Collision

In essence, they are the perturbations, or ripples, in the fabric of space and time.  They are emitted from massive systems, like coalescing two black holes converging and merging into one, which is actually what LIGO detected, or giant cataclysms like supernovae.  They are a confirmation of a theory we have been using for a century, but they are also a new tool we can use to probe the universe.  As the comparison goes, “As Galileo’s telescope opened our eyes to the universe, gravitational waves have opened our ears.”

The best part is that I can be a part of the research during this era of discovery, even though I am only an undergraduate student.  Embry-Riddle is a host to many esteemed faculty that do research and encourage their students to do research, and there is an entire department dedicated to student research in the form of the Undergraduate Research Institute run by Dr. Anne Boettcher.  In fact, three professors in the physics department – Dr. Michele Zanolin, Dr. Brennan Hughey, and Dr. Andri Gretarsson – are involved in the LIGO experiment, and actually are the only scientists in the whole Four Corners area (Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado) that are pursuing this research.

Research for undergraduate students is incredibly important, but also highly demanding.  I work ten hours a week, reading papers on high-level statistics, writing proofs, learning to code, and analyzing data.  It requires a lot of concentration and persistence, especially since I have had to learn a completely new set of skills and knowledge.  And it means that as a student, I have to take initiative and follow through on something I am not receiving a grade for.  But in the end, I don’t regret it, since I was able to sit in the conference room at 8:30 am and watch the live press release of something amazing.  Since I was able to be a part of something bigger than I was.  Since I have learned so much about something so fascinating that otherwise I would have known nothing about.  And in the end, we discovered gravitational waves!Sophia

Sophia Schwalbe is a Junior in Space Physics, in Air Force ROTC and the Honors Program, and has participated in research with LIGO.