Tag Archives: REU

My experience with CIAN’S IOU-NA program

Learn more about the IOU-NA REU program and apply!

From Florida to Arizona


The morning of March 24th, I got a phone call from Amee Hennig, the education and outreach manager from CIAN. She had called to say that I got accepted to CIAN’s IOU-NA program. A program designed to help Native American Undergraduate students from across the US, become an integral part of the research experience, specifically in the Optical Science department at the University of Arizona.

Arizona? When I applied to the program, I was not looking forward to the idea of spending the summer in Arizona, but I had always wanted to visit the land of my people. I was reminded that I had prayed for this a while ago, so I kept an open mind and decided to focus on the opportunity at hand instead. Even before I stepped foot into Tucson, CIAN was there to help me every step of the way.

So I got on a plane and headed to Tucson. Continue reading


Fleeting: uncovering the richness of the summer with little time to spare

Before I had even left Tucson for my cool, green riverside dorm in Rochester, I knew my time in the REU program would be brief. When my friends and family inquired about my summer plans I would say “I’ll be in New York for 10 weeks, but I know it will just fly by.” With barely 2 weeks left I can honestly say I was right.

Last Thursday, as my friends and I ate lunch together, the thought dawned on me that our time was almost up. The warm sunshine shone on their faces as I surveyed the group. They were so wonderful to me, and I was saddened to think our time left together was so short.

My friends and me at a Buddhist temple in Canada

My friends and me at a Buddhist temple in Canada

Those friends were a small sampling of all the amazing people I have met and interacted with since the start of the program. Continue reading

A Packed Schedule – Plunging into academics with CIAN

The Center for Integrated Access Networks (CIAN) here at the University of Arizona had us enrolled in many wonderful opportunities to further our education including workshops and a preparation course for the GRE during this first IOU-NA program. All of which I am finding extremely useful because they are incentives to further our education but not obligations to do so. Though these activities at first can seem overwhelming they help to ensure I stay busy with research and ahead of the curve in my academic work. Striving for excellence begins with the will to motivate the self but does not end there. The CIAN coordinators do not make it mandatory, nor enforce the need for graduate school although personally it is beneficial for me to complete the GRE right now taking one more step towards graduate school.

Obligatory image of first time with a laser

Obligatory image of first time with a laser

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Family Tree

Family Tree: Learning the strength of a family’s bond

My mother instilled in me a great appreciation for my heritage. I remember looking as a child at my great grandfather’s citizenship certificate. He – Vincent D’Orazio – had come through Ellis Island to start a life in the United States after leaving his home in Calabria, Italy. My mother pointed out on a map, perhaps her globe she always kept in the kitchen, that Calabria was easy to find. It resides in the “tip of the boot,” so to speak, of the Italian geography. These things made the stories seem more real to me. I could feel the raised bumps on the certificate where the official seal had been placed. My great grandfather’s solemn expression stared out at me from the square picture glued to the paper. What a treasure this was.

Vincent D'Orazio's certificate of citizenship

Vincent D’Orazio’s certificate of citizenship

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Social Butterfly

Social Butterfly: Having fun in a far away land

I have been told that I have been blessed with a friendly personality. Before I embarked on this beautiful journey I was able to take advantage of the wonder that is the internet to start building friendships with the other students in the REU program. One of the students had created a Facebook page in order to keep everyone connected during the summer. Wasting no time, I posted a simple greeting expressing my excitement. Sixty comments later I had a group of people who I couldn’t wait to meet. This interaction allowed the other students and me to enter this program with common ground. We were able to learn about each other’s interests and hobbies without even leaving our homes. This eased my mind some when the day came for me to leave Tucson.

Is that 64 comments I see?!

Is that 64 comments I see?!

The program director, Connie, asked one of the REU students who normally goes to U of R to pick me up from the airport. She, Chelsea, was very nice in both Facebook conversation and texting. Needless to say, I was grateful at her generosity. My excitement built as my plane swooped onto the runway. I felt my smile widen upon seeing the trees and greenery of Rochester. Chelsea, and another REU student named Tanveer, were waiting for me outside the terminal. Chelsea shifted the contents of her car, one item being an ice scraper (such a foreign object to me) to make room for my luggage. It was colder than I expected, but the others seemed content in their shorts. Chelsea drove us to the University where I met Connie and dropped off my suitcases. More importantly, we picked up several more passengers and headed out for my first dinner in New York!

That macaroni and cheese bacon hamburger (I was feeling adventurous) marked the beginning of many fun times to come. These were my new friends (well, some of them). The next night they had a game night planned. There is a Physics Optics and Astronomy Library on campus that REU students are allowed to use 24/7. Naturally, this was the perfect setting for a big hangout. We played a game called Mafia for hours, and we laughed the night away. This was a regular occurrence in the first couple weeks here.

Amber and Rachel at the East End festival

Amber and Rachel at the East End festival (Photo Credit: Steve Drury)

Beyond playing games inside we have also found fun things to do around Rochester. The other weekend, for instance, I went with some friends (Rachel, Steve, and Amber) to the East End festival. Rochester is known for is festivals over the summer. The East End festival involves several live shows from many different local bands. We heard styles such as hard rock, funk, and “electrofunkstep.” Huge crowds showed up to enjoy the music and food trucks that lined the sidewalks. I tried an arepa and a deep-fried Snickers bar for the first time ever. Let’s just say they were incredible. During the concerts I really wanted to crowd surf, but I chickened out. Next time I have a good opportunity, though, I am taking it!

Playing frisbee and having a barbecue :)

Playing frisbee and having a barbecue 🙂

This summer has been full of hangouts, music, barbeque, soccer, movies, and games. During my time off it is generally easy to find something to do. Tonight many of us are participated in a trivia night. My team didn’t win, but we had fun! 🙂

Stephanie is currently an undergraduate at the University of Arizona. She is studying optical science and engineering. For the summer of 2014 she is participating in a Research Experience for Undergraduates program at the University of Rochester. Her favorite hobbies are singing and creating YouTube videos.

Beam Me Up, Scotty

Beam Me Up, Scotty: My role in Dr. Boyd’s lab

As I have mentioned in an earlier blog, I was allowed to select a project from five options. Essentially I am living out a ‘choose your own adventure’ this summer. The adventure I chose was exploring a ‘fast light’ material called alexandrite.

The alexandrite rod exposed from its housing which is held in the second metal tube.

The alexandrite rod exposed from its housing, which is held in the second metal tube.

What is “fast light?” 

By claiming alexandrite is a fast light material I am not suggesting that it can make light travel faster than c (the speed of light in a vacuum). What I am saying is that, under proper conditions, it should be able to make the group velocity of light exceed c. Continue reading

Baby Steps

Baby Steps: Working in an optics research lab for the first time

The Institute of Optics is located at the University of Rochester.

The Institute of Optics is located at the University of Rochester.

Back at the University of Arizona I have taken several classes involving labs from physics to chemistry to material science and, of course, optics. The optics labs above the others engendered a unique spark of excitement within me. I mean when else do you get to spend a few hours sitting in the dark with five of your friends shooting lasers at things? My enthusiasm may also have its roots in the fact that optical engineering is my major. So I maintain a healthy bit of pride surrounding all things optics. Continue reading