Emma the Science Girl

Emma Mirizio (courtesy of Mirizio)

There are many types of people in this world. Some are kind. Some are smart. Some are artistic. Even though there are seemingly infinite adjectives to describe a person, one simple word cannot pin down the character, the intelligence or ambition of this University of Maryland student. 

Emma Mirizio is a sophomore astronomy and physics double major. However, she casually mentioned that her double major could become a double degree if she completes 150 credits by her graduation in 2021. While the thought of 150 credits might have most college students spitting out their Natural Light, for Mirizio, this is completely feasible, albeit challenging, concept and that seems to be her schtick.

Mirizio enjoys the normal hustle and bustle of college life, yet she’s also able to balance rigorous courses, being a T.A. for a physics class and a job at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center during her time as a Terp.

Mirizo said she’s taking 15 credits this semester and that her schedule is filled mostly with her physics and astronomy classes as per her major requirements.

One of her math classes is “mostly differential equations,” while another one of her classes is modern physics, where students learn about relativity, which Mirizio dubbed as “scary.”

However, what Mirizio deems “scary” is often considered downright terrifying for students who aren’t as academically invested as her. When she’s not taking her modern physics class, Mirizio enjoys her favorite subject, theoretical astrophysics, because she “understands what’s going on.” Yes, you’ve read correctly-- theoretical astrophysics.

Despite the intimidating course name, Mirizio elaborated and said that she thinks the class is “kinda cool because you can see the planets do their orbits mathematically.”

As a student and as a T.A. for a physics class geared towards architecture and kinesiology majors, Mirizio gets to experience both sides of the classroom. She is tasked with leading labs, holding discussions and offering office hours. Mirizio gets to make her own lesson plans and quizzes, and is even in charge of 30 percent of her students’ grades, which, she said, “feels like too much.”

Mirizio also teaches an even spread of freshman through seniors, so about half of her students are older than her, and she’s “pretty sure some of them are actual adults,” which she also described as “scary.”

All of Mirizio’s days are equally jam-packed, but she claims Thursdays as her worst day due to her back-to-back physics and math classes and her two-hour long Design Cultures & Creativity honors program class. However, she does find some time for enjoyment in her DCC class because she’s able to combine her two loves: art and science.

Mirizio is working on a capstone project about light pollution, so she’s painting windows and “designing a bunch of light switch covers” to remind people to turn off their lights. She added that the covers will “look pretty, so you’ll actually want to put them over your light switch.”

Some of the light switches covers Mirizio painted and plans to sell (courtesy of Mirizio)

She plans on selling these covers and having the proceeds benefit the International Dark-Sky Association. The artistic environmentalist said she “loves art” even though she “did it more in high school than [she] does now,” but she did get to take an “intro to drawing for non-majors” class last semester.

This class tasked Mirizio with drawing people in the nude, and when asked if she enjoyed drawing naked people, she laughed and said: “On the record?... I guess.”

One of the window panes Mirizio painted (courtesy of Mirizio)

Thursdays may be her worst day, but Mirizio celebrated the fact that she doesn’t have any class on Friday, saying she “got so lucky.”

Instead of spending her Friday sleeping or bingeing Netflix like other students, Mirizio uses her day off from school as a day-in at work. She goes into her job at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center at 9:30 a.m. and leaves around 5 p.m.

During her time at work, Mirizio indulges her love of science and conducts meteor research in order to try and find a better value for the “luminous efficiency” of meteors. She wants to find a more accurate “total mass for meteoric materials” in order to have better predictions for global weather patterns.

Mirizio is unlike other college students her age and her school schedule alone makes her one of the busier people on campus. Her achievements in science and art are a true testament to the phrase “girl power” as she’s flourished in a male-dominated field. Mirizio’s ability to handle immense responsibility, paired with navigating the other trials and tribulations of college life is why she cannot be defined by one adjective-- because a single word cannot possibly encompass all that is Emma Mirizio.

Emma Mirizio (courtesy of Mirizio)