Thursday, October 10, 2019

UVI Physics Graduate – ‘It Took Everything to Earn My Degree’

Graduation cap adorned with Infinity Stones from Marvel Movie

Azhar Hussein poses with diploma

Azhar Hussein glided across the University of the Virgin Islands’ Commencement stage with a smile on her face and Bachelor of Science Degree in Physics in her hand. Hussein, a part of the first cohort to earn this degree, decorated her commencement cap just for this occasion. The cap was adorned with the gold glove of Thanos from the popular Marvel Movie “Infinity War,” complete with all five infinity stones. The cap read, “It Took Everything.”

Looking back at her time at UVI, Hussein remembers how challenging some of the physics courses were, specifically statistical mechanics. “That course I struggled through a lot,” said Hussein. “I had to apply myself and I had to spend more time studying.” However, she managed to complete the course successfully.

The St. Thomian of Palestinian descent has always had an interest in science and math. Hussein decided to attend UVI based off of her desire to attend college and the affordability of the university. “After that whole entire experience [in the physics programs], I don’t even regret going to UVI,” she says.

Hussein originally majored in nursing and then biology, but it was not until she had her first physics course that she discovered her true path. “I absolutely enjoyed it,” she says. “I loved it! I enjoyed how Dr. Smith taught. It was amazing.” After taking that course, Hussein made the final decision to become a physics major.

Dr. D. Morris, Dr. J. Staff, Hussein, Dr. D. Smith, and Dr. A. Cucchiara
Hussein thanked the Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences, especially her Physics professors (Dr. David Morris, Dr. Antonino Cucchiara, Dr. Jan Staff, and Dr. David Smith) for the wonderful journey she had as an undergraduate student. Her time at UVI provided her with internships and research opportunities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Colorado Advantage Program (graduate preparatory program), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) where she was during the summer of 2019. While at MIT, Hussein gained expertise in object recognition by using supervised machine learning. Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence that provides computers with the ability to learn

Hussein accepts diploma from Dr. Hall

without being explicitly programmed. It also focuses on the development of computer programs that have the ability to change when exposed to new data.

Hussein presents poster at MIT

After interning at NASA, Hussein learned many new things and has been able to use her prior knowledge in machine learning for the purpose of astronomical studies. “My internship at NASA is going great,” she said. “I’m enjoying it thus far, and it’s awesome!”

Aside from internships, Hussein has been able to attend several science related conferences and events which include: the American Physical Society Conference, the Emerging Researchers National Conference, the MIT Summer Research Program, and the EPA Water Ambassador Program. Attending these events allowed her the chance to network and connect with scientist, physicists, educators and fellow students like herself.

Hussein will attend graduate school at Oregon State University where she was selected to receive the Provost’s Distinguished Graduate Fellowship, and eventually become a medical physicist. She says she’s definitely going to miss her time at UVI and the welcoming environment her physics professors brought along with them every time they taught. She takes with her so many exciting and joyful memories she gained throughout her college journey.

Hussein poses with graduation hat

“Even though it [physics program] proved to be difficult, it was still completely worth it,” Hussein said. “The experience it brought me, where I am today.”

When asked what she would say to anyone that has an interests in physics or plans to study Physics at UVI, she says, “Go for it, you won’t regret it!”