Introducing the USAAAO Publicity Team

As an organization, we want to build and maintain an equitable atmosphere for our volunteers, team, coaches, and competitors alike. The USAAAO publicity team has been formed in order to reach out to as many high school students across the nation as possible, and to also expand access to our competition for underrepresented minority groups, as well as for students with less financial and educational opportunities . The publicity team will be the social face of USAAAO, engaging in social platforms and reaching out to schools, including schools with underrepresented population, and including them in our mission to advance astronomy and astrophysics education for everyone.

With that, here is our 2020 USAAAO Publicity Team!

Charly Castillo

I am a rising junior at the Weehawken High School in Weehawken, New Jersey. I joined the Publicity Team because I am committed to using my passions for astronomy and education equity to make an impact on other underrepresented students. As someone who was not exposed to much astronomy in school, I want students who are in a similar position as I was to be aware of the subject and the opportunities that are offered by the USAAAO. When I’m not developing our new LinkedIn page, I work as the Director of Science for a mentorship program called Mission Impassionible and read research papers on the latest astrophysical research.

Brendan Duong

I am a rising sophomore at UCSD majoring in Physics with a Specialization in Astrophysics and minoring in Mathematics.

My interest in astronomy began when I was in middle school and stumbled upon a documentary clip on gamma-ray bursts. I recall being so astonished that catastrophic events like these were happening out in space. This experience piqued my curiosity about the Universe and motivated me to continue learning about what other amazing things were happening beyond our world.

In high school, my knowledge and passion for astronomy grew through my participation in Science Olympiad’s Astronomy event. Through my studies of topics like supernovae and galaxy formation, I developed a greater appreciation for the complex principles our Universe operates upon, but also just how surreal our Universe is, from cannibalistic black holes to exploding stars.

Today, my pursuit of astronomy is still motivated by the same desire I had in middle school to learn more about the Universe. I hope that, by serving as a Publicity Officer for USAAAO, I might be able to introduce students to the field of astronomy and spark the same flame of curiosity that drives me today.

As an undergraduate, I intend on continuing my studies in Physics and Mathematics to prepare myself for a career in astrophysics research. In my free time, I enjoying playing the violin and piano, reading, and playing video games with friends.

Shaurya Jain

Sanat Kumar

My name is Sanat Kumar and I am currently a student at Lebanon Trail High School in Frisco, Texas. I love all sciences and branches of math, but I am especially fond of astrophysics, astronomy, and physics. I hope to become an astrophysicist in the future, and want to conduct research involving black holes and gamma-ray bursts. For now though, I involve myself in plenty of school activities, such as the two math & physics clubs I have founded, as well as sports. I play soccer and I also run varsity cross country and track.

Erin McConnell

I am a graduate of Dartmouth College (B.A.) and the University of Maine Climate Change Institute (M.S.), with a background in the earth and climate sciences. I am interested in communicating science to the general public in order to increase advocacy for the inclusion of scientific evidence in public policy discussions and decisions. I also want to play a role in getting younger students involved in science, which drew me to volunteer for the USAAAO.

Outside of work, I enjoy long-distance running, road trips, and hiking with my favorite adventure buddy (pictured above).

Kashvi Mundra

Hello! I’m a senior at Lambert High School in Suwanee, Georgia. I’m excited to be part of USAAAO’s Publicity Team!

My interest in astronomy and physics started in the 2nd grade purely by accident through a library book. Since then, I’ve always been intrigued with how everything in the sky works, but it wasn’t until high school that I decided I wanted to pursue the space sciences.
Recently, I took the 2020 USAAAO exam and made it to the second round, the NAO. Although this was the end of my exam journey this year, taking the exams opened my eyes to so many more topics in the realms of Astronomy and Astrophysics. I hope to share my interests and passion to more people around the nation.

I am interested in research and am currently working on a project regarding Coronal Mass Ejections.
I also enjoy the communicative arts and read anything I can get my hands on. I am also currently working on a young adult novel.

Outside of academics, I have been an Indian classical dancer for 9 years and enjoy playing three instruments and producing music.

Julyn Rose Peliña

I am a college student at Cavite State University – Naic Campus in Cavite, Philippines. I’m taking BS Secondary Education major in Science. After I finish my current course, I want to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Astronomy and take master’s degree in Astrophysics or Astrobiology. I’ve been fascinated with Astronomy when I was on a 4th grade. I feel mesmerize and wondrous when I’m looking at the night sky. As time goes by my passion for Astronomy deepens therefore I try to come out of my comfort zone and join at different organizations that helps me to acquire technical and life skills. I join USAAAO this 2020 to volunteer as a publicity officer because I want to help students at their Astronomy and Astrophysics education and to reach a wide range of people and introduce them with Astronomy and Space. Aside from being a publicity officer at USAAAO, I’m currently undergoing a training at OrbitX, a newly founded aerospace company here in the Philippines. I’m so astonish with spectacular celestial objects like moons, planets, nebula, and etcetera. I want to experience microgravity in space and know how rocket works and I want to become a part of space exploration. I want to become the first Filipino Astronaut. I yearn to become an astronaut someday not only because it’s my passion and to satisfy my curiosity but also to inspire, motivate, and encourage youths especially Filipino youths to pursue their dreams no matter how hard it is and no matter how long it takes to fulfill your dreams. Ad Astra Per Aspera!

Maximilian Riccioli

I am a graduating senior from Hebron High School (Carrollton, Texas), and in the fall I’ll be pursuing degrees in both engineering and astrophysics at the University of Texas at Austin.

When I was very young, I was fascinated by outer space and astronomy. As I entered into middle school, however, this enthusiasm fizzled out and was replaced with a general appreciation for science and math. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I rediscovered my love for astronomy: my physics teacher asked us to name the major stars in Orion, and I felt that I should have been able to considering how much I once enjoyed the subject. Over the next year, I dove back into astronomy and my old passion was rekindled.

In January of my senior year, I discovered the USAAAO and IOAA by chance on Wikipedia about a week and a half before the test date. Although I had general knowledge of astronomy and physics – and I studied the recommended texts furiously for that week and a half – I was ultimately one point away from advancing to the National Astronomy Competition. As a Publicity Officer, I hope to spread awareness to students so they are aware of the competition far in advance, and so they aren’t in the same position I was in.

Outside of astronomy, I like to play video games with my friends, learn miscellaneous skills (juggling, card throwing, etc.), and watch YouTube videos. This summer, I have also developed an interest in radio technology, building antennas myself and using them to download images from passing weather satellites.

Rashmi Sheoran

I’m a final year undergraduate pursuing bachelors in physics (Hons) from the University of Delhi, India. I was first exposed to astronomy through popular tv shows when I was in high school. When I came to college, my interest grew more as I started meeting like-minded people at the nearby planetarium. I haven’t had an academic connection with Astronomy because of lack of opportunities but that I explore the public outreach activities when it comes to Astronomy.
I plan to study further and get a master’s in Astrophysics but till then I want to help other students so that they know about the existing opportunities like the NAO/IOAA.

I am an amateur astronomer and I usually spend my time doing stargazing, learning astrophotography, watching anime, and doing space science communication on social media. I look forward to sharing my passion for public outreach by volunteering for USAAAO community.

Sara Anjum – Transitioning/Alumni Publicity Officer

Sara Anjum has been a lifelong astronomy enthusiast. She aspired to be an astrophysicist since second grade, and was inspired to pursue STEM to the fullest extent possible because of it. She also co-founded the USAAAO in 2013 as a high-school student, and is still actively involved in its operation. She is also involved with other physics-related outreach organizations such as Physics Unlimited, a physics outreach organization for high-school students. Currently, her research at Caltech involves the design and creation of nanowire solar cells for space-based applications.

Outside of STEM, Sara enjoys singing, dancing (ballet and hip-hop), ice-skating, and playing the piano and violin.

Through the publicity team, we hope to brighten the prospects for all students alike.

Thank you to everyone who is making our mission possible!