Penn State students selected to study at the CERN

Stephanie Brown and Melissa Quinnan, undergraduate students in the Eberly College of Science and Schreyer Honors College, were selected for a prestigious undergraduate research fellowship at CERN this summer as part of the University of Michigan’s CERN Summer Undergraduate Research Experience program. Only 15 students from universities across the country were selected for the program. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centers for scientific research.

“It’s a testament to our talented and hard-working students that they were chosen for this prestigious and highly selective program,” said Ruth Mendum, director of the University Fellowships Office. Since 2008, seven Penn State students have been accepted into the CERN research program, with this year being the second that two Penn State students were accepted in the same year.

Brown, a native of Lansing, Mich., and a freshman majoring in astronomy and astrophysics, is also a scholar in the Millennium Scholars Program, which provides outstanding students from all backgrounds with financial, academic and social support to help them prepare for advanced graduate work in science and engineering fields. Brown works as an undergraduate research assistant in the lab of Michael Eracleous, professor of astronomy and astrophysics, contributing to research on suspected binary black hole systems.

Quinnan is a junior studying physics from Phoenixville, Pa. Since she was a freshman at Penn State, Quinnan has worked in the lab of Doug Cowen, professor of physics and astronomy and astrophysics. Cowen’s lab uses the IceCube South Pole Neutrino Observatory to detect neutrinos. Neutrinos are subatomic particles lacking an electric charge that are capable of conveying astronomical information from the edge of the universe.

In addition to the CERN summer research program, Brown was also selected to participate in DAAD-RISE this summer. DAAD-RISE is a summer internship program pairing undergraduate students from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom studying biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences and engineering with research lab experiences in Germany. Quinnan participated in the DAAD-RISE program last year, working at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology on the EDELWEISS dark matter search experiment.

The students won’t receive their project assignments at CERN until March, but both know what they’d like to study while there. Brown’s interest in supermassive black hole systems is strong. Quinnan is hoping to work with particle accelerators and learn how to build one.

When they graduate from Penn State, both Brown and Quinnan plan to attend graduate school. Brown envisions a career as a theoretical astrophysicist after attaining a doctorate in theoretical physics, while Quinnan plans to pursue a doctoral degree in particle physics. 

Last Updated February 17, 2015