Student Profile: Jea Adams

August 2, 2019

Jea Adams Headshot


ADAMS (B5 Affiliate)

Amherst College | Amherst, MA | 2021


Academic Major: Physics, Mathematics


Hometown: Georgetown, Guyana

“I love LEGOs! My little sister and cousin really drew me in with the amazing frameworks they'd build and I couldn't stop experimenting with all the cool things LEGOs allowed you to do. I spent my first year in the US as a volunteer at the Brooklyn Public Library teaching kindergarten and elementary school children how to create interesting structures and robots with those fun little blocks.”

Tell us…


What is the topic of your research this summer and what are your related goals?


"I work with Dr. Nimesh Patel on Triggered Star Formation in the Elephant's Trunk Nebula. Often times, we observe molecular clouds exhibiting signs of having not one, but multiple episodes of star formation. The process of how the first episode of spontaneous star formation occurred is generally well understood, but what about all the other generations of stars that clearly came after it? Sequential star formation, and particularly triggered star formation, may be the answer. It is possible that the existence of bright stars residing near molecular clouds can shock those clouds to densities and pressures capable of producing many more star forming regions. My project takes a peek at the edges of HII regions to observe different molecular lines that can hopefully tell us a little more about potential stars forming in that area."

What area of astronomy fascinates you most or brings out the most passion in you?


"Exoplanets! Particularly, exoplanet detection via Direct Imaging. On my very first day at Amherst College, I was lucky enough to sit in Professor Kate Follette's Alien Worlds class. She took me under her wing and gave me the opportunity to "see" exoplanets with her. Direct Imaging is a relatively new field, and so it's a really exciting time to be immersed in all the incoming data and investigate the bounds of our exoplanet detection abilities. I think the discovery of these new worlds piques the curiosity of even the youngest minds, and so I hope that this science remains a big part of my future."


What do you aspire to do?


"I'd love to spend the rest of my days unearthing the secrets of the universe, and sharing those secrets with the rest of the world. Accomplishing the first bit likely means getting a doctorate, becoming an astrophysicist, and possibly a professor. However, my greater goal lies in the second part: the sharing. My education in Guyana was filled with incredible teachers and mentors, but access to the science that entranced me the most, astronomy, was very limited beyond documentaries. This is the case for many other developing countries across the world. As I slowly make my way along this path, I'd like to help create a platform to share the resources I receive with those who may not be able to sit in the same classrooms or visit museums to learn about the beautiful science of our universe. I don't know where I'd be without the videos and blog posts of kind strangers to compensate for the math and physics that were lacking in my own education, and I hope to contribute to making astronomy just as accessible to others."

What significant lessons have you learned this summer so far?


"I hadn't quite realized the value of reaching out for help until this summer. Being at the Center for Astrophysics has been one of the most intimidating experiences of my life, but there is never a shortage of people wanting to ease that burden. For much of my life I wanted to be completely self-reliant in fear of being bothersome and burdening others. Yet peers, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and astrophysicists have all been more than willing to lend an ear no matter the circumstance, and I couldn't be more grateful to exist in such a supportive atmosphere. As a scientist, it taught me the value of collaboration. As a person, I have learned more about the world through sharing in the experiences of my Banneker peers than I ever have before. The books we've read, the discussions we've had and the emotion we've shared as a group have given me a deeper appreciation for not just what it means to exist in this society, but the compassion and patience that it will take to help change it for the better."


What parts of your experience with Banneker would you like to see modeled in the broader astronomy community?

"As someone very new to living in American culture, much of my understanding of it came from media snippets and short, anger-filled conversations about politics. Many topics are so touchy that few people ever want to discuss the "Why", and stick to skirting around the periphery of the "What." The Banneker program offered a safe space to read, learn and grow together while understanding the root of many ideas that comprise the structure we live in. In one summer, it has completely shifted my way of thinking, and I can't even begin to imagine what such a shift could do on a larger scale. Science is amazing, but we can't do science alone. I would love it if we could come together as a community of astronomers and future astronomers to welcome these discussions on important social issues in order to understand the perspectives of the different people and groups that we work with on a daily basis. Small steps like community lunches, social science book clubs, and seminars implemented on a small scale can have far-reaching impacts."

What would you say to a student who is considering applying to Banneker in the future? Can you recall the reasons you applied?

"Banneker Institute is more than a summer research program. It offers you the chance to understand the world around you, your role in it, and all the ways in which you can change it. This process of learning is deeply filled with emotion, and is truly one of the most enlightening experiences I have ever had. If you're looking for the opportunity to grow alongside a community of other budding astronomers and a plethora of mentorship along the way, then please consider applying. There are so many people that come together to make this program what it is, and I couldn't be more grateful to the group for allowing me to be a part of that."