Student Profile: José Perez Chavez

August 2, 2019

Jose headshot



University of Arizona | Tuscon, AZ | 2020


Academic Major: Astronomy, Physics


Hometown: Culiacán, Sinaloa, México

“My immediate family is very big on dogs. We’ve had approximately 20 dogs in total during my

Tell us…


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


"This summer I’ll be exploring TESS data to measure stellar rotation by watching starspots rotate into and out of view. The goal is to give rise to new statistics on stellar evolution to better characterize planets. Some related goals include learning about stellar evolution and its relation to rotation, how to best present the background, and how to interact with TESS data to create custom light curves."


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


"While I am always exploring new areas in astronomy, astrobiology is one of the subfields I am most interested in. Astrobiology is concerned with how astrophysical events and objects, and biology lead to life in the universe. While biology is certainly not my strong suit, I am fascinated by the astrophysical processes that govern the creation of habitable planets. I think astrobiology as a field can connect astronomy to our human personal experience in a way everyone can appreciate it."


What do you aspire to do?


"I will earn my doctorate in astronomy and get a position in academics in a public university. I’ll then become a resource for underrepresented minorities in the field of astrophysics. I’ll disrupt the scientific communities that weren’t meant for me to be in and aid students in learning how to navigate such spaces. Another one of my aspirations is to make astronomy more accessible by bringing astronomy to the public outside of academia, and extending the audience to non-english speakers."

What significant lessons have you learned this summer so far?


"I’m enjoying the experience of working closely with my advisor and having multiple meetings with her each week. I’ve been learning how to create a productive workflow with my advisor, and figuring out the type of relationship I can build with them. Another significant lesson I have learned is that progress doesn’t always have to reflect on a product. My understanding of a scientific question is more important than my blind quest for results."


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


"The creation of safe spaces where scientists can learn about, and discuss social issues. The practice of avoiding topics like racism and sexism leads to toxic workplaces. In scientific fields like astronomy, we can too easily ignore the reality that while we’re researching the universe, we still exist in and must collaborate and interact with the rest of the population. Our community isn’t isolated from the social issues that impact the larger society. Since undergraduate curriculum will not likely change any time soon, I think it is up to the scientific community to create opportunities that fill the gaps in knowledge about differing experiences among scientists."

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

"First of all, you have nothing to lose by applying, so do it anyway. I remember when I did, I was most insecure about my grades. They are well below average, and I was hoping my progress over the years would show that my grades do not reflect the type of student I am and the potential I have. When I was admitted, I realized that grades had little impact on my application and that the program valued who I am. Banneker provides a loving community of scientists who support each other. I have been making great memories and friendships, connections with future collaborators and mentors. You will need to be ready for a challenge, as the program is designed to simulate a graduate level experience and more. All of this will prepare you to embark on to graduate studies as well as prepare you for the general pressures and challenges you will face in life."