Dante Iozzo, a 2016 UB graduate and recipient of the NSF GRFP Award, studies theoretical astrophysics at Cornell University.
UB Graduation Year: 2016
Major: Physics and math, with a minor in classics
Hometown: Lewiston, NY
Awards: National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program, 2016 recipient
Even before you have your application in hand, the moment you start thinking about it, I would go talk to an advisor. Start asking, “What kind of experiences are going to help me to win this?” Right from the get-go, you’ve got to start getting involved, it won’t just fall in your lap. You have to chase opportunities down and ideas, that’s what it takes.
I pursued a BS in physics and a BA in mathematics. Along the way, I spent a good amount of time studying ancient Greek and ended up with a minor in classics as well.
I was mainly involved with the UB Sailing Team, which formed a significant part of my undergraduate experience. With a few friends, I also helped to start a UB science outreach initiative to the local public schools.
I am now in graduate school at Cornell University, pursuing a PhD in physics. My research is in the field of theoretical astrophysics, studying the properties of gravitational waves by simulating black hole collisions. The ultimate goal is to help advance the nascent field of gravitational wave astronomy.
When I started graduate school, I was not intending to study astrophysics. My undergraduate research ranged from chemical engineering to particle physics, even having the opportunity to engage in epidemiology. I was no stranger to switching fields! After arriving at Cornell and speaking with different professors, I was excited by the prospects of gravitational wave astronomy and personally enjoyed the dynamics of the research group itself. If you’re going to be studying something for six years, it’s important to like the people you’re working with!
I’m working under Saul Teukolsky, whose research group is part of the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) collaboration and the LIGO collaboration. Working closely with others in an international collaboration was new to me, but I came to really enjoy it.
Absolutely, it is the main reason I am at Cornell. UB provides many resources for help applying to anything. From summer research to various scholarships, the scholarship office at UB was there to help every step of the way. From my undergraduate coursework and research experience, I felt very well prepared for graduate school.
Practically, professors do not have an unlimited budget for graduate student salaries. This can be a bit of a hindrance for new graduate students trying to find a professor to work with. With the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, you have much more flexibility in what you’re able to pursue because you are not dependent on a particular professor’s grant. This presents much more intellectual freedom. However, even if I was not awarded the NSF Fellowship, the process of applying would still have been influential to me. All the preparation that was needed to be a competitive candidate prepared me for a future career in research and science outreach. During my sophomore year I started preparing to apply for the NSF Fellowship. With constant advice and support from the scholarship office at UB, I quickly got involved in research and started thinking seriously about how I could make a bigger impact even as an undergraduate student. That is what prompted me to start working on science outreach to the Buffalo Public Schools.
Anytime you have any application, bring it in to the Office of Fellowships and Scholarships! They will walk you through the processes and help you to polish it up. But even before you have your application in hand, from the moment you start thinking about applying, go talk to one of the scholarship advisors. Start asking, “What kind of experiences are going to help me?” From there you have to chase down all the ideas and opportunities that pop up.