Franklin & Marshall’s weekly online newsletter
Douglas Named College’s Third Clare Boothe Luce Scholar
Stephanie Douglas ’12
As an astrophysics major at Franklin & Marshall College, Stephanie Douglas ’12 keeps track of the location and movement of distant stars. But her friends and professors might say that the real challenge is keeping track of Douglas herself.
Douglas spent the summer traveling to several far-flung destinations, all in the name of research and science. As part of her Marshall Scholar project, she spent four weeks in Australia studying pulsar timing at the Parkes Observatory. Upon returning to the U.S., Douglas began a Hackman Scholar project with Peter Allen, visiting assistant professor of astronomy. She plans to travel to Arizona in October to work at the National Undergraduate Research Observatory (NURO), and will attend a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle in January.
It is all part of a busy research agenda for Douglas, who became Franklin & Marshall’s third Clare Boothe Luce Award winner in May. A program of the Henry Luce Foundation, the award is considered to be the most significant source of private support for women interested in science, engineering and mathematics. It is named for Clare Boothe Luce, a playwright, editor, ambassador and member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“When I found out I won the scholarship, I felt like saying, ‘someone tell me I’m not dreaming,’” Douglas says. “It was overwhelming.”
Douglas has loved science since she was a child, thanks to her family’s encouragement.
“I come from a family of scientists,” she says. “My dad teaches AP biology, my mom is a nurse and my sister is a pre-med student. Science has always been my favorite subject in school. I got a telescope in preschool, but it didn’t work. I’ve always liked reading about deep space and wondering what’s out there. I’m interested in the things we can’t see.”
Douglas brought her childhood fascination with space to F&M, where she took several physics courses during her first year. “You need a background in physics if you want to go to graduate school in astronomy,” she says. “And coming in, I knew I wanted to attend graduate school.”
In Australia, Douglas spent time at the Parkes telescope and its research facility. She also took part in an education outreach program, meeting with colleagues of one her professors, Andrea Lommen, associate professor of astronomy at F&M. Douglas and Lommen’s colleagues discussed the Mid-Atlantic Relativistic Initiative in Education (MARIE) program.
As she prepares for another trip to the NURO telescope in Arizona, Douglas also makes time for several extracurricular activities on the F&M campus. She is a member of the gaming society at F&M, which meets every Monday night. She is also a house adviser in Bonchek College House, and plays her djembe—a hand drum—for the worship team of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.
Douglas dedicates most of her time, however, to astronomy.
“There’s so much out there to discover,” Douglas says. “I can add to my own knowledge and to other people’s knowledge. The universe is infinite—we’ll never run out of things to learn.”