Alessandra Corsi, associate professor in the Texas Tech Department of Physics and Astronomy, discussed receiving the 2020 Edith and Peter O’Donell Award in Science from The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST) Tuesday.
The award, according to the TAMEST website, includes a $25,000 honorarium to four researchers in the following fields: science, technology innovation, medicine and engineering and an opportunity to speak at TAMEST’s Annual Conference each January.
Corsi has been at Tech since the fall of 2014 and is an astrophysicist who studies stars, especially those that die, the Italy native said. She has taught non-science majors classes, such as introduction to astronomy.
There is a nomination process that starts at the university level, Corsi said. Some of her colleagues nominated her to the upper university administration and then there is a selection procedure.
“I was lucky enough to find mentors here and there, but they weren’t people you could go ask ‘Can you be my mentor?’” she said. “They were people that were just offering me suggestions and help and you kind of adopt them. Without anything in return, they continued to help.”
Corsi is thankful for the people who helped her, she said, specifically the mentors she established when she moved to the U.S. and her department who nominated her.
Her fourth year of high school, Corsi was inspired by her science teacher who was enthusiastic about what she taught in class, she said. She knew she was interested in stars, so she embarked on the physics route.
“The key thing was seeing someone in that role, my high school teacher, and that made the difference,” she said.
Corsi is hoping to inspire students in the same way that she has been inspired moving forward and would like to be a gateway for students to have more opportunities, she said. She also wants to expand her research.
For the Spring 2020 semester, Corsi said she will teach a new Radio Astronomy course to physics majors.
“So, it’s how you can look at types of smash-ups between two neutron stars but using radio astronomy, so radio signals,” Corsi said. “I’m trying to bring my research in to this new course.”
Corsi is excited to be able to teach this class and expand knowledge and training to physics students, she said.
“At Tech, in particular in the course of radio astronomy, right now we have no real training in place that could get students trained and then go out in the real world and do research,” she said. “So, I would love, for example, for students here to be trained and then go use the Very Large Array, which is this wonderful telescope we use in real research. But they can’t get their hands on it unless they get trained on how to use it.”
Corsi has not received much support anywhere else like she has at Tech, she said. She does not believe she would have been as successful anywhere else.
“My research students, in particular, are what inspire me,” Corsi said. “They’re my motivation in the morning. I would like to give a message saying it’s not always about this award and me, but I hope this makes a difference for TTU in terms of inspiring young people.”