Embry-Riddle Helps Student Find Her Place in Space

When Janessa Slone (’23) was a high school senior, she made a “spontaneous choice” to pursue physics even though she wasn’t 100% sure where that decision would ultimately take her.

Space Physics major Janessa Slone ('23) spent the summer of 2022 as a part of the Society of Physics Student national internship program in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Janessa Slone)
Space Physics major Janessa Slone ('23) spent the summer of 2022 as a part of the Society of Physics Student national internship program in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Janessa Slone)

Fast forward several years and Slone finds herself nearly finished with the challenging B.S. in Space Physics degree at the world’s foremost aviation and aerospace university; she also spent summer 2022 as part of the Society of Physics Students national internship program in Washington, D.C.

“There is so much opportunity as space is constantly developing, and new discoveries are being made,” said Slone. “Space isn’t just rockets and physics, it’s a culture of a thousand different topics.”

What helped Slone solidify her choice of a major and a college was a visit she made to Embry-Riddle’s Prescott Campus through the Women’s Ambassador Program. Slone got to shadow a Space Physics student that day and she was sold on the school.

“This interaction with a student made me feel welcome and cared for—overall making it my top choice for school,” Slone said. “One aspect that really stuck out to me was the Undergraduate Research Institute. I liked the idea of being able to start research as early as my freshman year, and I wanted to take advantage of that.”

Advantages such as undergraduate research opportunities are at the core of an Embry-Riddle education. But for Slone, there are so many more benefits.

Connections are a key part of the Embry-Riddle experience, whether with industry contacts, expert faculty members or fellow students. Slone cites her membership in the Society of Physics Students, of which she is now president, as being of particular value.

“The Space Physics and Astronomy community is very tight knit,” she said. “We also have the Cave—a research room in [the STEM Education Center] where we can relax, study, get help on homework or classes and even take naps if needed. Not one person in this degree is unkind when it comes to helping other classmates or underclassmen. It’s a very genuine and heartwarming thing to observe, especially because we all want to succeed, and we all want our classmates to succeed.”

Success is also top of mind for Embry-Riddle’s faculty, who have vast industry and academic experience and share it all with students.

“I have never once been scared to ask a ‘dumb’ question, and even if the concept may be simple, they break it down in terms that I can understand,” Slone said of her instructors. “So many of our classes are interesting yet challenging. I really enjoyed Quantum Mechanics with Dr. Brennan Hughey and Modern Physics Lab with Dr. Darrel Smith. This is the lab that we began to challenge ourselves more. I started to feel more like an experimentalist with all the freedom that we had.”

Slone says she doesn’t have a single career goal right now, adding that she has learned from Embry-Riddle that “there are more opportunities than I might think.”

She’s also following some sage advice she got from John Mather, a Physics Nobel Prize Laureate and senior researcher at NASA, who told her not to be afraid to say yes to opportunities that may stray from theoretical physics.

“This opens the door to gain more skill and network with new people,” Slone said.

Although she does dream about working for NASA as a theoretical physicist, “if another opportunity is presented on this journey, I would gladly take it.”

And when she looks back on her high school decision to make physics her focus, Slone is thrilled to see how it’s turned out.

“Physics is one of the most demanding majors, and I like a challenge,” she said. “Of course, sometimes it can be too challenging, but that’s when I look to my friends and the faculty for guidance. Pursuing a Space Physics degree and getting this far has been one of my proudest accomplishments.”

Keep up with Janessa on her summer internship: