Barrett sophomore Jack Schulte's research interest is in the stars
Jack Schulte was a bit nervous when he stood before seasoned researchers at the 50th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference held in The Woodlands, Texas near Houston in March.
There Schulte was, a sophomore in Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University majoring in physics, with just about 15 minutes to talk about his research and an abstract he co-wrote titled Using Symmetric and Asymmetric Three-Dimensional Supernova Models to Constrain the origins of Presolar SiC Grains.
The talk was 11 minutes with four minutes for questions, a relatively short period in anyone’s book. However, it was enough time for him to make an impression on other researchers, who appreciated the work he has been doing as an undergraduate researcher at the ASU Center for Isotope Analysis.
“It was by far the most helpful thing I’ve done. I got so much feedback from people who have been doing this sort of research for 30-40 years. They told me my research is exciting and gave me great feedback,” Schulte said. He added that he plans to use their suggestions to beef up a paper he is writing with Dr. Maitrayee Bose, assistant professor in the ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration, with whom he does research.
“Jack is born to do research! Why do I say that? He gets excited about new ideas, does the hard work that is required to bring ideas to fruition, is an excellent writer and an orator. I know that he takes great care for all the things that he does, and gives his 100%! All these characteristics make him an ideal student to do long-term research,” Bose said.
Schulte started working with Bose in March 2017 on studies of stardust grains in meteorites.
Bose said Schulte was excited about the topic, wanted to learn more and quickly read a review paper on the subject. It wasn’t long before he was analyzing new supernova model data that Bose had gotten from a colleague and collaborator Prof. Patrick Young. A supernova is a star that suddenly increases greatly in brightness because of a catastrophic explosion that ejects most of its mass.
“As he analyzed the data, he would ask valid questions. Our one-on-one meetings were so much fun, where I saw him take ownership of the project! I am impressed to see how he took on the project, and made great progress in a few months,” Bose said.
Schulte taught himself how to use Matlab, a technical computing language that integrates computation, visualization, and programming to address problems and solutions in familiar mathematical notation. He also uses 3-D models to analyze data regarding super novae and NanoSIMS (nano-scale secondary ion mass spectrometer), an instrument to measure isotope ratios in meteorite samples.
Schulte worked with Bose to write the abstract that was chosen for presentation at the conference in Houston. He received a Nininger Student Travel Award from the ASU Center for Meteorite Studies to offset the cost to attend the LPSC.
Schulte, who started ASU as an aerospace engineering major, said he is fully committed to completing a bachelor’s degree in physics. The research he is doing with Bose will be the basis of his undergraduate honors thesis.
“I switched majors in the first semester of my semester year after I fell in love with physics. I love research, going to conferences and looking for answers to the universe’s questions.
I like being inquisitive and finding out things. I also love the comradery of working with other researchers to find and solve problems,” said Schulte, whose long-term goal is to complete a PhD in astrophysics or physics and work in a national lab at an organization such as NASA or Los Alamos.
He wants to continue to work in research, possibly focusing on the exoplanets, planetary science, meteorites, or astrobiology.
“All of these offer different questions and let us study a picture of the science of things. The No. 1 answer an astrophysicist can give is ‘I don’t know.’ It is an indication of their willingness to research and figure things out. I want to be that kind of researcher, always asking questions and looking for answers,” Schulte said.
While Schulte’s research interests are in the stars, his philanthropic work is nearer to the ground.
For two years, as a member of Engineers Without Borders at ASU, he has worked on a project in the Shonto area of the Navajo Nation in Northern Arizona.
The project brings members of the organization to the John Smith Wash in Navajo County to build irrigation systems and inspect river dams made out of sandbags and tires. The students’ work helps to ensure the area has a reliable water source for agriculture.
Schulte credits Dr. Joe Foy, Honors Faculty Fellow at Barrett Honors College, with putting him on his research track. Foy’s expertise is in space and solar physics and astronomy. His research focuses on understanding the physics of pulsar wind nebulae and of the interstellar medium.
“None of this would have happened with Dr. Foy recommending me to Dr. Bose.
When I was signing up for The Human Event (Barrett Honors College’s signature course for first year students) I looked for faculty whose expertise lined up with my interests in astrophysics and chose a class with Dr. Foy. I’m so lucky I did.”