Ph.D. Student in Astrophysics, UC Berkeley / Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

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No matter what anyone tells you, you're good enough.

Sarafina Nance

What do you do?

I study exploding stars (supernovae) to learn more about the physics of the Universe. I'm studying aspects such as explosion mechanism, which types of stars explode and when, and how fast the Universe is expanding.

Why did you choose this field?

I've been enamored with the night sky since I was about 4 years old. I took an astrophysics class in high school and absolutely loved it. In college at the University of Texas, I dual majored in physics and in astronomy, and continued onto UC Berkeley for my Ph.D. In college, I interned at the McDonald Observatory to do science communication, and at Harvard for research on supernovae.

My biggest role model in Astronomy since I was a kid is Carl Sagan. I strive to communicate astronomy (and science at large) as effectively and with as much passion as Sagan did.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

Winning the NSF graduate research fellowship...also just being accepted into a Ph.D. program for astrophysics! Younger me would've never thought that possible.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love exploring the fundamental parts of our Universe. To me, some of the most important questions that we can ask ourselves include "Why are we here?" "Are we alone?" "How did we get here?" and "What is the fate of the Universe?" I'm privileged to be able to think deeply about these questions and learn something intrinsic to the Universe every single day. It's a dream.

Best advice for next generation?

No matter what anyone tells you, you're good enough. Follow your passion--passion is more important than grades, exams, etc. That passion will carry you forward, and it's more valuable than any 4.0 GPA.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

"We're made of star stuff" - Carl Sagan

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