Student Spotlight: Sarah Dodamead

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Sarah Dodamead visits Mount Rinjani, an active volcano in Indonesia.

Sarah Dodamead is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in physics and astrophysics within the Department of Physics, part of Florida State University’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Where are you from, and what is your anticipated graduation date?

I’m originally from the British Virgin Islands, but I grew up in the Florida Keys. I am going to graduate this coming spring.

How did you learn about the scholarship opportunities that you ended up receiving?

I received a Critical Language Scholarship with the help of the Office of National Fellowships here on campus; specifically, I worked with Josh Stanek, the associate director of that office. I also received an FSU IDEA Grant and learned about it through the ONF as well.

The Critical Language Scholarship Program is an intensive overseas language and cultural immersion program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State for American students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities. The IDEA grant provides qualifying FSU undergraduates with a summer stipend of up to $4,000 to fund their self-designed work on a topic, project, problem, artistic product or performance, or other entrepreneurial or creative idea.

What on-campus resources/departments or offices helped you prepare, both on an academic level and in the application process? 

The Office of National Fellowships. I also worked with an adviser, Andy Opel, a communication professor, who acted as a mentor through the IDEA Grant process.

What did the scholarships allow you to accomplish?

The Critical Language Scholarship allowed me to learn the Bangla language and study the Bengali culture of Bangladesh. I lived in West Bengal for two months in 2016 and attended the American Institute for India Studies. After I gained insight into the language and culture, I applied for an IDEA Grant to return to Bangladesh to work on a research project there.

After receiving the grant, I went back to Bangladesh and conducted research through the International Center for Climate Change and Development on the social impacts of climate change. I learned about the population migration patterns in Bangladesh and how climatic pressures are affecting that movement. Due to rising sea levels and heightened tide variations, people are being pushed from their rural coastal villages into the already overpopulated slums of the capital, Dhaka.

The IDEA Grant allowed me to practice creative problem solving for an issue I am passionate about. Not only was I able to conduct the research, but receiving support showed me other people believed in my project too. My projects have been internationally centered, and it excites me to educate people about the wider world and make the world a smaller, more connected place.

What’s next for you?

I plan on working toward a Ph.D. in oceanography.

What brought you to FSU?

I came to FSU because I admired the university’s emphasis on research and creative problem solving. Also, my older brother Thomas Dodamead, whom I’ve always looked up to, was a student here.

What inspired you to choose your major?

I have always possessed an affinity for the ocean. I was born in the British Virgin Islands and grew up on a sailboat in the Florida Keys. I spent most of my free time exploring the dynamic underwater world.

When I began my undergraduate career at Florida State University, I decided to study physics and astrophysics, with a minor in mathematics, to pursue an understanding of how the world works. A few courses have inspired the direction I’d like to take in the future and have taught me a good work ethic, including Graduate Hydrodynamics, Graduate Physical Oceanography and Classical Mechanics.

I have also been involved with three research projects that solidified my passion for research and creative problem solving and defined oceanography as the direction for my future research. I really enjoy the application of physics and math to understanding Earth’s climate.

Are there any faculty or staff who have helped or inspired you? 

In the physics department, I learned that hard work and dedication can accomplish anything. And I’ve learned the value of office hours. Specifically, I owe a debt to David Collins, my Extragalactic Cosmology and Hydrodynamics professor; Yuko Hori, my Classical Mechanics professor; and Jorge Piekarewicz, my Quantum Mechanics professor. They always have their door open for questions, whether the question pertains to physics or grad school or career options.

What do you like to do when you’re not doing schoolwork or research?

I joined FSU’s wakeboarding, surfing and kiteboarding clubs, and those groups connected me with other adventurous students on weekend trips to the beach for camping, surfing and kiteboarding.

What are you looking forward to in your post-graduation life?

I am looking forward to having more autonomy in my research and to living near mountains so I can go hiking on the weekends.