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TCU Student Reflects on her Physics “Extended Family”


by: Madison Benveniste, CSE communications intern

The College of Science & Engineering strives to ensure all students have the support they need to succeed in their field. Hana Jaafari, senior physics major from Fort Worth, has witnessed this first hand.


Hana Jaafari (photo by M. Benveniste)

Jaafari started at TCU in fall 2013 with nearly all of her core requirements completed by taking classes at Tarrant County College while in high school. This allowed her to add biology, chemistry and mathematics minors to her degree plan. During her freshman year, she became involved in research where she worked under Professor Hana Dobrovolny, a theoretical biophysicist, to mathematically model tumor growth. She immediately had an affinity for experimental physics, and decided to join W.A. “Tex” Moncrief Jr. Chair of Physics Zygmunt Gryczynski’s laboratory, where she gained experiences in fluorescence spectroscopy. Her work within the laboratory largely centered on studying and characterizing BODIPY dyes, which may be used within biological settings as it can sense the viscosity of certain regions within targeted cells and thereby help optimize drug delivery pathways. This research is supported by a CSE Science and Engineering Research Center (SERC) grant she received in spring 2016.

In 2014, Jaafari co-founded Women in Science and Engineering (WISE).  She currently serves as president for WISE and for the TCU chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS). “In both organizations, I seek to draw in students from diverse backgrounds, and encourage them to succeed at TCU by providing resources (such as workshops) and leadership positions,” Jaafari said.

Jaafari interned during the 2015 summer semester at the National Institute of Health, and at the University of Texas-Southwestern University in 2016. Jaafari co-authored two peer-reviewed journal articles and presented this research at multiple conferences, including SPIE (International Society for Optics and Photonics) Photonics West in 2015. She also serves as a tutor in the physics department tutoring clinic.

“I have worked alongside numerous undergraduates who are frustrated with their lack of understanding of physics concepts or stuck on their assignments,” Jaafari said. “I always have tried to assist them to the best of my abilities and encourage a love or an appreciation for physics, a subject that often intimidates students.”

Professors Dobrovolny and Gryczynski, and Senior Associate Dean Magnus Rittby all served as mentors for Jaafari while at TCU. “I have built a network of friends from my fellow physics majors, and will continue to keep in touch with them following my graduation,” Jaafari said. “Overall, I feel like the physics department is my extended family that will welcome me for the years to come.”

Jaafari’s most unforgettable professor at TCU is her genetics professor Matthew Hale. She is currently enrolled in his Genomics course and Introduction to Excel/R seminar. “He is genuinely invested in every student’s education, providing organized, illuminating lectures that have sparked my passion for genetics,” Jaafari said. “I feel that he is genuinely interested in seeing me succeed as a student and future researcher.”

Jaafari feels that TCU and the physics program provide many avenues and resources for students to excel and pursue their interests. She suggests that a prospective student interested in physics should push himself or herself in high school by strengthening their backgrounds in science and mathematics. Once they enroll in a university, they should try to join a laboratory as a freshman to expose themselves to the wide array of specialties of physics and gain experience. Additionally, they should ask the physicists they encounter or work with about their studies and research, in order to become aware of the opportunities and specialties available for young physics students and to build a network of connections.

“Physics is an immensely rewarding field that will provide a student with the tools to challenge and analyze the world around them and the universe as a whole,” Jaafari said.




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