ASU astronomy grad to see the world — and stars

Michael Busch awarded NSF graduate fellowship, inaugural Origins Project Undergraduate Research Scholarship


May 3, 2016

Editor's note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2016 commencement. See the rest here.

Michael Busch, who will be graduating this spring with a dual bachelor’s degree in astrophysics and physics, was recently awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) graduate fellowship. Busch is also a recipient of the inaugural Origins Project Undergraduate Research Scholarship. He plans to attend Johns Hopkins University to pursue a doctorate in astrophysics. Michael Busch at the Griffith Observatory (with Albert Einstein) Michael Busch at the Griffith Observatory (with Albert Einstein). Download Full Image

His advice to current students? “Get involved in research and outreach as early as possible.”

As an undergrad, Busch joined the Geo Club, AstroDevils and Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) in his first year and did outreach with all three groups. He is also a community mentor, a NASA Space Grant Fellow and part of the Low-Frequency Cosmology Group. 

“Performing outreach is not only an essential part of science communication with the general public,” said Busch, “it gives students the opportunity to network, practice their presentation skills, and it’s just fun as well.”

His plans for the future include travelling to Germany to spend seven weeks at the University of Hamburg to use the Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) to study clusters of radio galaxies. He then plans to start his doctorate at Johns Hopkins.

Although he is excited about this next step, he says he will “always be a Sun Devil at heart!”

Busch answered some questions about his experience at ASU:

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: When I was 5 years old my family lived in Los Angeles, and my parents took me to Griffith Observatory. I did not understand much of the exhibits, but I was inspired enough to realize that this was something I wanted to study for the rest of my life, so when I got to college I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: As I visited other departments, I realized that ASU is probably the most diverse place I will have the opportunity to work at. ASU has the wonderful advantage of being a distinctly diverse oasis amongst the rest of the schools in our country. There are so many cultures and perspectives that merge at ASU. I had the opportunity to fill most of my electives with Woman and Gender Studies classes to study the barriers that exist not only for women, but minorities as well, especially in the STEM field. Although I wasn't exactly surprised, as a minority myself I simply became more aware of the situation and I now advocate greatly for diversity in STEM. Through three years as a NASA Space Grant fellow I have had the opportunity to conduct outreach not only at ASU but also to schools in the area, including the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Community.

Michael Busch

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I came to the conclusion that I would go to ASU when I was a freshman in high school while living in Casa Grande, Arizona. I was the president of our STEM club and led a group of students to ASU in 2008 to attend the first Origins Project Symposium where I saw Lawrence Krauss, Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson, among others. I enjoyed the event so much that I decided that I would go to ASU.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Get involved in research and outreach as early as possible, even in the freshman or sophomore years. In my case, I joined Geo Club, AstroDevils and SEDS my first year and did outreach with all three groups. Then I met Meg Hufford, the great SESE outreach coordinator, and she introduced me to professor Judd Bowman, for whom I would end up doing research for three years. Performing outreach is not only an essential part of science communication with the general public, it gives students the opportunity to network, practice their presentation skills, and it’s just fun as well. Additionally, any sort of NSF proposal in the future will ask for outreach and/or “broader impacts” of a proposal, so keeping in mind the outreach aspect of your research is imperative to long-term goals. 

Another great piece of advice I can give to students: Don't stress so much about getting that 4.0; it does not matter. Once you get into graduate school, no one cares — at all — about your undergraduate GPA! Moreover, most of your actual skills that you will use in research are learned doing research as opposed to in your classes. It is much better to be focused on keeping your stress in check and having a healthy routine that includes exercise. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: Although associated with many late nights of studying and homework, I would have to admit the PSF Physics and SESE Tutoring Center is my favorite place because of the sheer amount of time I spent in there during my degree. It is also the place I usually go to meet up with my friends before or after class. Aside from that, one of my favorite things to do is walk around campus, and in particular, Palm Walk on a breezy Sunday when there's no one around.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: In the summer I will be travelling to Germany to spend seven weeks at the University of Hamburg to use the Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) to study clusters of radio galaxies, then I will be starting my PhD at Johns Hopkins. While in graduate school I plan on joining the Johns Hopkins Symphony as a cellist, go kayaking on Chesapeake Bay and complete a wine-tasting tour of the USA.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would have a hard time choosing one cause, but as a community mentor for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for three years I have become an advocate for suicide prevention and sexual-assault awareness on college campuses. Having had to sometimes help students that go through such traumatic events really opened my eyes to the struggles that students face that are seldom talked about. Aside from that, one of my role models is Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who stood up to the Taliban and advocates for education for all girls and children around the world. If I had the chance to collaborate with her in order to spread access to education for children everywhere I would definitely do that.

 

 

Karin Valentine

Media Relations & Marketing manager, School of Earth and Space Exploration

480-965-9345

A teacher under the skin

ASU grad Truman Peyote has goals of teaching American Indian literature at the college level


May 3, 2016

Editor's note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2016 commencement. See the rest here.

“Chokma, chinchoma, saholhchifoat Truman Peyote, Chikashsha saya, aamintili Tishomingo, Oklahoma (Hello, how are you, my name is Truman Peyote, I am a member of the Chikashsha Nation from Tishomingo, Oklahoma).” Truman Peyote True Peyote, who holds a B.A. from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, graduates from ASU this spring with a Master of Arts in English literature. He recently defended his applied project titled “Queer Skinned: How I Came to Be Defined by a Gene,” which explored, using literature, what it means to be an Indigenous person in white society. Download Full Image

Peyote, who holds a bachelor's from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, graduates from ASU this spring with a Master of Arts in English literature. He recently defended his applied project titled “Queer Skinned: How I Came to Be Defined by a Gene,” which explored, using literature, what it means to be an Indigenous person in white society.

Peyote has goals of teaching American Indian literature at the college level, a departure from where he saw himself as an undergraduate.

“I attended school to discover myself, and not to procure some employment, as if university was some glorified trade school. Inevitably, everyone would say, ‘Well, so you must want to teach?’ And while I may not have known exactly what I wanted to do, I knew that I did NOT want to teach.”

But then life happened. Our interview picks up 20 years after he earned his bachelor’s degree and just prior to Peyote's change of heart.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study in your field?

Answer: I had spent one half of my life working a myriad of jobs, all of which seemed interesting for a couple of months. However, at the age of 40, I became a police officer and discovered that I had a true passion for helping people. After I settled into the job, I specialized in the detection and prevention of impaired driving by alcohol and drugs. My passion for the subject led me to speaking with others about the subject, and I eventually began to teach DUI/DWI classes at my department and at the local police academy. Others noticed how passionate I was about teaching, and they continually related this to me, but I routinely dismissed them.

In April of 2012, I was involved in an altercation with a suspect, and I became injured. Despite surgery and rehabilitation, that injury forced me to retire in May of 2013. And just like that, I had lost the career from which I had expected to retire at the age of 62. Instead, I was out of work at the age of 47, with no idea of where to turn. My partner Sophia, one of the greatest women I have ever met, continually pushed me to consider returning to school with the goal of becoming a college professor. I knew that I would have to jump through some serious hoops to return to school after 26 years, and I quickly discovered that I was correct; however, I was lucky enough to meet with Dr. Lee Bebout (an associate professor in the Department of English). He was encouraging, and together, we mapped out a plan for me to achieve this goal, which I refer to as my “new life.” While I believe that ASU could do a lot more to accommodate the non-traditional student, I am a firm believer in individual passion, determination and endurance.

If I had an “aha” moment, it would be embedded in the simple guidance of a mentor like Dr. Bebout. It could be found in times of quiet reassurance and positivity from a fellow student. It may be the simplest of times, appearing almost unremarkable, when a loved one exhibits their unwavering faith in your ability.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: During my time at ASU, I have focused my research on American Indian literature, especially as it pertains to the ideas of race, ethnicity and the establishment of a personal, American Indian space within the public sphere of white America. While this inquiry is superficially established within a political realm, it is also firmly embedded in our relationship with the land. As N. Scott Momaday writes, “I am interested in the way that a man looks at a given landscape and takes possession of it in his blood and brain.” In my research and writing, I attempt to discover the manner in which storytelling serves as a process where a person searches for her/his relationship to the land.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Education is a lifelong pursuit, it requires total commitment, and it does not end with a degree, or a certification. It demands a high level of dedication that requires a belief in one’s self and a passion for the fashioning of a positive impact on the world. I have also come to deeply appreciate the idea of “Survivance,” a term that Gerald Vizenor originally coined as a representation of modern American Indian life, a life that is filled with survival, endurance and a rejection of dominance.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My goal for the future is to tell beautiful stories, elucidate myths that are filled with survivance, and relate ceremonies where a person may come to discover her/his own relationship with the land and with another; for I believe that it is only within art and literature that a person is able to truly find her/his humanity.

 

The Department of English is an academic unit of ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Kristen LaRue

communications specialist, Department of English

480-965-7611