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Student Spotlight April 2012

"Jeremy is a classic example of a student who has blossomed academically while at the same time developing a leadership role within student organizations at the university.  He is more than deserving of a few moments in the spotlight".
-Dr. Chris L. Davis, Department of Physics and Astronomy


Jeremy Hornbeck



Jeremy Hornbeck received a B.S. in Physics from Eastern Kentucky University in 2005 and a M.S. in Physics from UofL in 2011. Jeremy is now a Ph.D. student in the physics department at UofL, where his research is in the field of astrophysics, and more specifically, circumstellar disks and exoplanets. 




How would you describe your area of study/ specific research to your grandmother?
I study baby solar systems to watch how they grow up so we can better know how our solar system formed.

What made you go into this field of study?
I love learning new things and understanding how everything in the universe works, so physics was an obvious choice.  I picked astrophysics in the end because it has so many big questions that still need answers and I wanted to help answer them.  Also, they were the first to offer me money to do research.

How do you think this advanced degree will change your role in society?
It has certainly made me more intelligent, but more importantly, it has vastly increased my ability to think critically and solve difficult problems.  Those qualities are immensely important for leaders.  This degree will allow my role in society to be that of a far more effective leader than would have been possible otherwise.

What was your favorite part of the graduate school experience?
Getting the opportunity to meet and interact with expert scientists around the world and being treated as a peer rather than a student.

What do you feel is the greatest challenge that graduate students face and how have you dealt with this challenge?
I think the greatest challenge for many is financial.  The stipend I get from my grant, which I am very grateful for, simply doesn’t make ends meet.  To compensate, I have taken out student loans and learned to live frugally. The coursework can also be very challenging. My love for learning helped me work through the challenging coursework. 


Awards, honors, publications:
In 2011, I received the Bullitt Memorial Award for best scientific paper. In 2010, I received the Harvard Origins of Life Scholarship which I used to attend the 2010 Santander Summer School: Extrasolar Planets and Habitability in Santander Spain.

What accomplishment, academic or otherwise, are you most proud of?
I have been proud of many things over the years, so it is difficult to say which one thing I am MOST proud of.  However, I can say right now I am very proud of my first scientific journal article being published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Long term goals/ aspirations:
I would like to change the science policies in the U.S. and increase public awareness for the value of a scientific education. 


Fun Facts 

Favorite book: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Pet Peeve: Illogicality and hypocrisy

If you weren’t in graduate school, what would you be doing now? I would probably be attempting to start a career in politics.  I hope to someday help change science policy in the U.S. and around the world. There’s also a good chance I would be bartending.  I bartended my way through undergrad and for years afterward, and I still occasionally bartend private parties and weddings.  It’s a lot of fun because you get to meet a lot of people and (most of the time) you’re everyone’s favorite person in the room. 
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