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USU Grad Receives Fulbright Student Scholarship

Thursday, May. 17, 2007

Jan Marie Andersen

Recent USU grad Jan Marie Andersen received a Fulbright U.S. Student Scholarship to study physics in Denmark.

Tom Wilkerson, Jan Marie Andersen and Dean Don Fiesinger

Jan Marie Andersen, College of Science Undergraduate Researcher of the Year, is congratulated by faculty mentor Tom Wilkerson, left, and Dean Don Fiesinger.

Something is definitely not rotten in the state of Denmark for new Utah State University alum Jan Marie Andersen. The recent graduate, who received a bachelor’s degree during USU’s May 5 commencement ceremony, won a 2007-08 Fulbright U.S. Student Scholarship to study physics, beginning in the fall, at the University of Copenhagen’s renowned Niels Bohr Institute.

“I am very excited to have the opportunity to represent not only the United States but also USU as a Fulbright student,” says Andersen, who majored in both physics and math.
Seems as though travel to Denmark is destiny for Andersen. After all, what budding physicist doesn’t revere the contributions of Nobel Prize-winning scientist Niels Bohr, who pioneered studies of atomic structure and quantum mechanics?
Andersen also notes that her last name is Danish. “My whole life I’ve been correcting people who write it ‘son’ instead of ‘sen,’” she says.
In a country of roughly five million people, where an estimated 3.3 percent of the population answers to the surname ‘Andersen,’ she may get a respite from repeatedly spelling her name.
Andersen, who was named Undergraduate Researcher of the Year for USU’s College of Science, will study astrophysics during her Fulbright sojourn. “My plan is to focus on stellar evolution and the early universe – one of my favorite subjects,” she says.
She briefly delved into these topics during a class taught by USU physics professor David Peak, who, along with professors Mark Fels and Jan Sojka, helped her apply for the scholarship, she says.
“I and everyone in our college is delighted that Jan Marie has been awarded this unique opportunity,” says Peak. “This is a highly competitive program and Jan Marie is a worthy candidate.
Peak says that the Niels Bohr Institute is one of few places in the world where there’s a highly concentrated effort to study the earliest stars.
“Like other current stars, our own star – the Sun – was formed from earlier stars,” he says. “Not much is known about the first stars and how they were born.
“Jan Marie’s studies in Denmark could well establish her future career path,” says Peak.
Andersen says her dream of becoming an astrophysicist began in high school.
“My high school geology teacher showed us Carl Sagan’s Cosmos videos every Friday, and I fell in love with the subject,” she says. “USU, with its strong space research program, was my logical college choice.”
During her undergraduate career, Andersen was a member of USU’s Microgravity Research Team, formerly known as the “GAS” or Get Away Special team. She also completed a NASA summer internship at California’s Ames Research Center.
Andersen was awarded a College of Science Undergraduate Research Minigrant and received a Physics Department Undergraduate Research Award. Since the summer of 2005, she has researched aerosol transport in the atmosphere with faculty mentor Tom Wilkerson at USU’s Space Dynamics Laboratory. She plans to finish up this research during the summer, prior to her departure to Scandinavia.
“I feel very honored, as well as extremely surprised, to have received the Fulbright award,” says Andersen. “Many people helped me with the application and I think all of them were more confident than I that I was going to get it.”
Established in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright program’s purpose is to build mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. The program is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. State Department.
Contact: Jan Marie Andersen []

Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto [], 435-797-1429

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