Arizona/NASA Space Grant Success Stories

John Zanazzi, 2009 Space Grant Intern

John Zanazzi, 2009 Space Grant Intern
Monday, April 15, 2013

John Zanazzi is a senior triple major in physics, astronomy, and math, and takes approximately 18 credit hours per semester and is involved in both the Society for Physics Students and the Astronomy Club.

Along with university research (including a 2009 NASA Space Grant internship), Zanazzi also took part in opportunities off campus through the National Science Foundation (NSF), which helped pave the way for his work with Research Experiences for Undergraduates. This program allows students to conduct research in their areas of interest at several different institutions over the summer. During three separate trips, Zanazzi studied experimental nuclear physics at Wayne State, mathematics at Penn State, and theoretical cosmology at the University of California Davis.

Drawing from his undergraduate research experiences and time with the NSF, Zanazzi crafted a research paper titled “Defining Cosmological Complexity,” which explores how the universe produced life as we know it. For his unique insight into the complexities of the galaxy, Zanazzi received an honorable mention from the University of Chicago’s John Templeton Foundation in the New Cosmic Frontiers International Science Essay Competition on the Nature of our Universe and its Habitats.

Zanazzi received a scholarship from the American Mathematical Society and an invitation to attend the prestigious Math in Moscow program, which allows students to study at the Independent University of Moscow, one of the leading mathematical centers in Russia. and was selected to attend the 15-week seminar as one of a handful of students from North America.  Zanazzi’s trip to Moscow began earlier this spring and will enable him to learn math from a different perspective.

“I think it’s going to be really different,” Zanazzi says. “Russians do math differently than Americans because they focus more on types of problem-solving, which will definitely improve my own problem-solving abilities. I’m going to get to feel what it’s like to learn in that type of environment, which is very exciting.”

Zanazzi plans to pursue a graduate degree in theoretical astrophysics and cosmology before returning to academia as an instructor. Zanazzi credits his time at Northern Arizona University for providing him the skills and support necessary to accomplish his aspirations.