Scholarship Award Alumni - Maryam Hussaini

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Maryam Hussaini

University of of Texas at Austin
Physics and Astronomy
Bachelor of Science - 2021
2020 USRA Distinguished Undergraduate

When Maryam was 7 years old and living in Afghanistan, Anousheh Ansari became the first Iranian and first Muslim woman to fly in space.  Maryam read about Ansari’s experience and got interested in space, and started asking questions, “Why are stars shining?”, “Why do they look so tiny?”, “How many of them are out there?”  As there are no astronomy programs in Afghanistan, her 10-year old self would now be pleasantly surprised she’s been able to pursue her interest.

At age 15, Maryam immigrated to the US with her family.  She was learning English through songs and watching movies, trying to get into college, and be like an average American student.  She continued her interest in astronomy because it had everything she loved: math, extreme conditions, physics, and light.  At UT Austin, she started doing research by studying the light from low mass stars, and studying their magnetic fields and effects on possible exoplanets.  At her internship at Harvard Center for Astrophysics, she studied merging galaxy clusters.  Throughout her various experiences, she has gained an appreciation of the different fields in astronomy, and the difficulties, excitement, and rewards of doing scientific research.  She says, “It is rewarding to look at a noisy spectrum coming from a galaxy that was created only a billion year after the Big Bang and know how many stars it produced per year. Who wouldn’t think that is incredible?”

At UT Austin she sought out mentors, who subsequently helped her believe in herself, and encouraged her to apply for internships and scholarships she might not have otherwise applied for.  She says having people who know her well are good choices for letters of recommendation.  Her experience mentoring goes back to her time in Afghanistan,  when she worked her peers to help them pass math and science classes.  She now shares the joy of science and mentors her younger siblings and immigrant children, including those at the Austin International High School.

Maryam is busy pursuing her dreams to ultimately have her own research group.  In the meantime, all she needs to do now is follow one of her mentor’s advice to sleep more and drink more water.