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Mayura Balakrishnan

Her story: Mayura grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and lived there for 12 years before her family moved to Michigan. She spent the last two years of high school attending boarding school in New York, but returned to Ann Arbor when she was accepted to the University of Michigan.

For Mayura, being close to her family was a big draw for attending the University, but she also chose it because she likes the big school atmosphere and the fact that here, astronomy is its own major.

When she was younger, Mayura’s family took her to a weekly workshop where kids could learn about engineering, chemistry, physics, and astronomy in a hands-on way. At that workshop they did a lot of observational astronomy which she found fascinating. When Mayura started high school, she still held her interest in astronomy and had an affinity for physics. When she arrived on campus, it only seemed natural that astronomy would be her major, along with physics.

Her interests: When it comes to her enthusiasm for astronomy, Mayura’s interests primarily lie in the study of galaxies. To her, it is exciting that today’s astronomers are beginning to understand the underlying physics associated with galaxies. In addition, with the study of galaxies you have to add dark matter to the equation which opens up the door to so much more that is unknown.

Her advice to future astronomy students: Mayura understands that the field of astronomy can pose many challenges and sometimes you may doubt whether you really belong. “Diversity is a thing, and the challenge is remembering that I know what I’m doing – to not think about the obstacles,” she said.

To future students who may be considering astronomy as a major, Mayura offers this advice: “Go to some of the student talks run by the Student Astronomical Society (SAS) or some of the faculty talks. They help to engage you and fill in the blanks. If you’re able to engage with the material happily and are excited by new discoveries and astronomy, you’re probably in the right place.”

What’s next for Mayura?: After finishing undergrad, Mayura would like to take a gap year and then pursue a Ph.D. in astronomy.