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Department of Physics honors outstanding students


Side-by-side portraits of ASU Department of Physics students Kris Ganzel (left) and Antonella Semaan.

Left: Kris Ganzel, OURS Program Scholarship award recipient and online sophomore double majoring in physics and astronomical and planetary sciences. Right: Antonella Semaan, Dean's Medal recipient and biophysics graduate.

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January 05, 2022

With the completion of the fall 2021 semester, Arizona State University's Department of Physics is highlighting a few of its award-winning students.

Antonella Semaan, who graduated with her Bachelor of Science in biophysics in fall 2021, received the Dean's Medal Award. Semaan was excited and shocked to have received the Dean’s Medal as a non-traditional student.

“I had a career change in my mid-20s. I'm 34. And I never really thought when I was younger that I would have the brains to pursue physics or something like that, but I was always interested,” she said. “In my early 20s, I was a sound technician, something that was completely unrelated to this, but I just wasn't fulfilled.”

Semaan started taking classes at community college, then discovered her love of biophysics, as it is an intersection between physics, biology and chemistry.

“The Dean's Medal was completely unexpected for me. I wouldn't have ever dreamed of getting an award like this. So for me, it's an honor and I am extremely happy,” she said.

Semaan is currently studying for the MCAT exams and hopes to go into the medical industry.

“I'm interested in radiology, because that entails more physics than other specialties," she said. "But I don't know, maybe when I'm in medical school, (I might) change my mind, but I think that I'm definitely going to want to stick to a specialty where physics is emphasized.”

Another award-winning student is Kris Ganzel, an ASU online sophomore double majoring in physics and astronomical and planetary sciences. Ganzel was awarded the OURS Program Scholarship, an award given to outstanding online natural sciences students.

“From pretty much day one, I started advocating for online students for better access to research projects, scholarships, things like that. And so I worked with the School of Earth and Space Exploration and then later the Department of Physics directly to really push for these kinds of opportunities,” he said. “I even founded a student organization last year, Sun Devil Stargazers. I pulled that organization and everything to show the administration that there was a demand for online students to get into research opportunities.”

Ganzel said to speak up about improving your education.

“No one's going to be mad at you for trying to better your education. A lot of times, what I’ve found is if there's something missing, it's because somebody hasn't thought of it, not because they don't want to provide it,” he said. “Your voice matters more than you think it does.”

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