Reaching for the Stars: Physics Major Participates in 'Dream' Internship
The NASA-affiliated Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, was founded in 1981 as the home base for Space Telescope operations. Now, it similarly functions as the center for science operations of the Hubble and James Webb Space Telescopes (JWST).
The institute offers internships with its Space Astronomy Summer Program and receives hundreds of applicants every year. With just a small percent chance of acceptance, only 15 applicants were offered internships with the summer program, including Honors College student Turaba Rahman.
The junior physics major, who has a concentration in research and is pursuing a minor in applied mathematics, described her experience as a “dream come true,” and happily claimed the title of research intern.
“I was flabbergasted,” she eagerly said. “I was so astonished.”
Turaba traveled to Maryland and moved into a residence hall at Johns Hopkins University during her time with STScI to begin her experience working 40-hour weeks from June until August.
While diligently analyzing astronomical data obtained from the JWST and Hubble Space Telescope, Turaba also had the opportunity to listen and participate in bi-weekly lectures given by researchers and scientists. Additionally, the group of 15 interns went on field trips to explore the NASA Goddard Space Center and the U.S. Naval Observatory.
Turaba’s main responsibility was working on her project on researching 13-billion-year-old galaxies in collaboration with her mentor and three co-mentors.
“I was analyzing very high redshift galaxies to calculate their star formation rates to see where stars form the most in the galaxies,” she said.
The intern worked with astronomical properties, such as stellar mass densities, dust extinctions, mass-weighted ages of stars and metallicities, which measures the number of elements in an object that are heavier than hydrogen and helium.
Turaba showed and talked about her findings in an eight-minute presentation during the institution’s annual end-of-program symposium. She pointed out the “hectic” feeling that came from standing in front of a crowd while her family and professor watched through a live virtual feed.
The program concluded after her speech, and she was asked and answered questions pertaining to her research. Turaba remembers feeling very accomplished having been offered the internship and completing it.
The history of the physics major’s affinity for astronomy started at a young age. As a child, Turaba was an avid night-sky observer while growing up in her hometown of Dhaka, Bangladesh.
“I would spend most of my time staring at the night sky, trying to find constellations, trying to find the moon when there’s a solar eclipse,” she said. "I would go to my rooftop and try to observe the phenomenon.”
However, the norm of her community at the time didn't encourage women to pursue higher education after secondary school. So, with motivation from her parents, Turaba came to Kent State in 2021 to further her experience in her desired field.
Noting her father’s unattainable desire to study abroad when he was younger due to financial reasons, Turaba said he wholly supports her pursuit of education. “It's like he's getting to fulfill his dreams … through me,” she said.
As a personal hobby, Turaba enjoys trying out new places to eat. Her favorite restaurant in the city of Kent is Evergreen Chinese Restaurant & Buffet. She highly recommends the spot, jokingly saying, “If I graduate and go to another state, I’m gonna come back to Ohio only for Evergreen.”
After graduation, Turaba said she wants to further her education as a Ph.D. in astronomy.
PHOTO CAPTION 1: Honors College student Turaba Rahman is pictured with the 14 other interns during the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Space Astronomy Summer Program. (Photo Credit: STScI.)
PHOTO CAPTION 2: Turaba Rahman is pictured sitting outside near a tree.
PHOTO CAPTION 3: Turaba smiles in a self-taken photo.
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