Cap and Gown: Jennifer Meade graduates after 6 years

Jennifer Meade, School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in astrophysics, will be stepping on the stage this May after six years in school. In an interview with The Daily Targum, she spoke about switching majors just before graduating two years ago, starting the outreach program for Space Technology Association at Rutgers (STAR) and completing her research thesis for both majors. 

When first applying to colleges, Meade said, she was not planning on going to Rutgers. But when she got here, she realized that the University had opportunities she could not get at other institutions because it is a Research I university, meaning professors are expected to carry out research as part of their jobs. 

So, after taking a Byrne Seminar with a professor, she decided to apply for research in educational psychology and became a behavioral economics major. 

“I was interested, thanks to that research, in how people think and how people reason,” she said. “I tried my best to apply to what I was doing with my majors.”

She had a change of heart in her last semester here after she had taken the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and applied to graduate schools, she said. 

“I realized when I applied to graduate schools that I was feeling trapped into what I was doing,” Meade said. “And I realized that that’s not what I want to do.”

The thing she decided she would not regret doing is astrophysics, she said. The reason she decided to study this is because it seeks to answer the biggest unanswered questions left in the universe. 

Professors were helpful in her transition, and mapping out how to graduate in two years, she said. She also began researching with another professor for her thesis on the differences in astrophysical simulations, which are used to test results in studies. Differences can cause changes in the results. 

She also, along with another friend, started the outreach program for STAR, which has gone to the Roosevelt school system to use chemistry and physics lessons to get students interested in space. 

One of their lessons has been to show the different energy levels in visible light. They showed that blue light gives off more heat than red light, counter to what most people believe. 

“So when we see things on our faucet that says red means hot and blue means cold, that’s actually wrong,” Meade said. 

The program aims to do this three times a year in the future, she said. 

With graduation coming up, Meade said she feels relieved. She will miss her friends and professors but is looking forward to doing research this summer at the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii and then coming home to publish her completed theses in both educational psychology and astrophysics. 

“It’ll be nice to have the time to relax and get done the things that need to get done,” she said. 

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