I grew up in the city of Binghamton, New York, and despite the many times I've moved, have always remained in the area. As a child, I think my imagination would have allowed me to be happy and have fun no matter where I was. Apparently I must have had a good imagination, because two years ago I found out that Binghamton was rated both the second most depressing and number one pessimistic city in America. Despite the gloomy reputation and initial impression, Binghamton is actually a wonderful city if you know where to look. Some of my favorite places to go are the quaint shops and hidden restaurants tucked behind the old buildings downtown, or the concealed dirt road on top of a hill where you can see the fireworks after a baseball game from the Mets Stadium. I think these small businesses as well as the local economy thrive mainly because of the student population from Broome Community College and Binghamton University. At a very young age I decided that I wanted to go to college, and although BU is an excellent school, I also knew that I was not going to be staying in Binghamton.

I had always had big plans for my future. I always had an adventurous spirit and a pronounced creative side. My childhood best friend and I dreamed of becoming famous singers, constantly writing and singing songs, and then forcing our parents to watch us perform them. When asked what I wanted to do, the answer was always either go on an adventure or do arts and crafts. My creativity persisted as I was in chorus, drama club, played piano, took dance lessons, and regularly performed at a theater called EPAC.

I was involved in numerous other activities and always wanted to try something new, whether it be a new sport or sampling octopus sashimi at the sushi bar. I even agreed to try going to a new school when we moved several times, and easily made friends at the three I attended. It was at these schools where I realized that I had a strong interest in math and science as well. I remember always asking my elementary school teachers if we could do an experiment. Unlike my artistic abilities, I excelled in math and science such that I could actually make a career out of that interest. In high school, science and math came very natural to me, and I was a grade below the other students in my science classes.

I realized that I wanted to major in a STEM field. I found that physics wasn't necessarily the easiest for me, but it was by far the most interesting. I loved how physics explains the way the world works, and therefore started watching documentaries and shows about current topics in physics. My grandmother took me to a local observatory, which led me to start focusing more on astrophysics. I was instantly engrossed by how large our universe was and how much we didnt know about it. I wanted to explore the world beyond our planet and discover what else is out there. These ideas and theories require a great imagination to propose in the first place, as does designing a plan on how to prove or disprove them. It seems I had found the perfect balance of science, math and creativity.

I owe my exploratory nature to my mother, who frequently took me on walks in the woods when I was a baby to show me the softness of grass and the roughness of bark on trees. We went to the Discovery Center and to Roberson Museum, where I saw the fossils of dinosaurs and a show about the cosmos in their planetarium. The place my mom took me to that Im most grateful for was the NASA exhibit at the New York State Fair. I still have the picture of us dressed in old astronaut suits standing next to a replica of a space shuttle. Although Ive always been fascinated by science, it seems that this moment has always been in the back of my mind. I believe it was the foundation for my interest in exploring the universe, and the reason why I want to pursue a career in astrophysics.

I am now a second semester freshman here at Stony Brook University and am planning to double major in physics and astronomy. After my undergraduate studies, I plan on going to graduate school to get my PhD so I can have a research based career, and hopefully have the ability to test my own theories one day. Attending a top research institution and being a part of the WISE program has made these goals so much more realistic for me. I've already been given the amazing opportunity to work with Dr. Noé in the Laser Teaching Center, where I know I will gain a greater appreciation of and interest in physics. The very first time I visited the LTC, I was amazed by previous projects and how many things in our lives relate to optics that I had never even thought of. If my first time going there had such an eye-opening impact on me, I can't imagine the effects that my research will entail. I hope to research a topic that will help me gain knowledge relating to astronomy, and can't wait to get started on my project.