Isabella Ferranti, Class of 2017, is an aspiring scientist who is pursuing her dreams this summer in Boulder, Colorado. She is interning at NIST Boulder Laboratories, known for conducting world-class research that directly impacts the United State’s scientific and technological advancement.

“Having the opportunity to work with outstanding scientists and partake in significant research is what attracted me to this internship,” says Ferranti. “Entering NIST is analogous to entering the Harry Potter Wizarding World. Instead of stepping into an alternate world of magic, you’re introduced to an almost equally unreal universe of science and technology.”

Ferranti is conducting experimental research in laser physics, nonlinear fiber optics, ultrafast optics, and astronomical instrumentation—with a specific focus on developing a laser frequency comb for precision astronomical spectroscopy.

“This laser frequency comb, which functions as a ruler for measuring the frequency and wavelength of light, will be used to measure frequency shifts in the stellar spectrum of parent stars similar to our sun,” says Ferranti.

Observing the incredibly small shifts in starlight allows scientists to recognize the signature of orbiting planets. It also provides researchers with the most efficient method for discovering planets outside of Earth’s solar system.

“This program has helped to solidify my love for science, reveal my desire to pursue a higher degree, and equipped me with the skills necessary to take that next step in my education,” says Ferranti.

Ferranti’s day-to-day experiences include recording data, interpreting that data, solving problems in the lab, going to seminars, and working with scientists who Ferranti says are  “as approachable and helpful as they are accomplished.”

“People transporting odd machines and talking about unfamiliar things flow through the hallways,” says Ferranti. “You pass by, and are sometimes lucky enough to enter, labs dedicated to creating computer circuits which mimic neural pathways, breaking the distance record for quantum teleportation, and improving the world’s most accurate time-keeping device: the atomic clock.”

Earning the internship at NIST entailed a rigorous application process. Ferranti and Southwestern sophomore, Yash Gandhi, are two of only 25 students nationwide chosen for this highly sought-after internship.

“Southwestern has helped to prepare me for this program by providing me with applicable academic knowledge as well as unique hands on experience,” says Ferranti. “Having the opportunity to participate in the Southwestern SCOPE program, take on several independent projects funded by the King Creativity Grant, and work closely with professors has helped me to grow as an individual, student, and aspiring scientist.”  

Ferranti is entering her senior year this fall, and brings with her a new-found confidence and breakthrough growth.

“This experience has pushed me to take on new challenges that I initially didn’t feel completely ready for, forcing me to reach in ways that I haven’t before and grow in ways that I didn’t think were possible.”