Swetha Sankar

Meet UCLA senior, Swetha Sankar, who is majoring in Astrophysics. Swetha was recently published as first author for her paper, “V488 Per revisited: no strong mid-infrared emission features and no evidence for stellar/sub-stellar companions” in The Astrophysical Journal. This past summer, Swetha was also selected to participate in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program with the National Radio Astronomy Observator and presented her research at the Summer Student Symposium.

Swetha is currently a part of Dr. Ben Zuckerman’s laboratory in the UCLA Department of Physics & Astronomy.


How did you first get involved in your research project?

During the Fall semester of my Sophomore year, I was interested in pursuing research and gaining hands-on experience in my field of study. In particular, my interest in a few of Dr. Ben Zuckerman and Beth Klein’s papers on white dwarf atmospheres and their significance in defining extrasolar planet properties led me to reach out to them. After a meeting in which we discussed my current research interests, I was given the opportunity to work with Dr. Carl Melis at UC San Diego on an unusually dusty stellar system.

How would you describe your research experience at UCLA?

This opportunity has definitely provided an invaluable experience for me as I have gained many technical skills and improved my public speaking. Additionally, it has also provided me with a community of people who have helped me grow as a person and an undergraduate student researcher under their mentorship.

What is one piece of advice you have for other students thinking about getting involved in research?

Do not be afraid or intimidated of reaching out and expressing your interest in a topic of study! If you are unsure where your interests lie, I would advise attending talks hosted by the department. Faculty on campus are more than willing to mentor you, help you grow as a researcher, and teach you the necessary skills needed to succeed.


What are your future career goals?

Currently, I am conducting research on low mass dwarf galaxy evolution and aim to apply to graduate school for higher studies in observational astrophysics with an interest in black holes and their influence on galactic evolution.