The Wesleyan Argus | WesCeleb: Anna Fehr ’23 Talks Astronomy Research, WesWIS, and Juggling Everything

c/o The Wesleyan Connection

c/o The Wesleyan Connection

Anna Fehr ’23 is deeply immersed in science on campus. From serving as a Teaching Assistant (TA) for a computer science class and conducting research with Associate Professor of Astronomy and Integrative Sciences Meredith Hughes in the Astronomy Department to serving on the Steering Committee of the University’s Women in Science Group (WesWIS), she is an exemplary role model Woman in STEM field at university. Fehr sat down with The Argus to talk about her love of science, what it’s like to have three majors and how she manages to fit it all into her busy schedule.

The Argos: Why do you think you were nominated for WesCeleb?

Anna Fehr: I think a lot of people know my name because I’m their vet. When I walk around, people I don’t know often greet me. These are usually people I’ve been a TA for [Computer Science].

A: What are you doing around campus?

AF: My biggest time commitment outside of class is probably research. I do research in the astronomy department. I’m also involved with Wes Women In Science. I am also involved in public relations in astronomy – public observation [for people to use school telescopes] hopefully coming soon!

A: What is the most rewarding part of being a member of the WesWIS Steering Committee?

AF: I’ve been doing this since my second month at Wesleyan. One of the things I really appreciate about WesWIS is how much control the steering committee has. So if you spend more time on the steering committee, you can really shape it however you want. I found that really satisfying. I really enjoyed the opportunities for students to get advice from other students regarding summer research opportunities, academic advice, course selection and all of those things. And I think a lot of those counseling relationships are also becoming social, which creates a lot of community.

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A: What led you to the triple major in astronomy, physics and computer science?

AF: At first I thought I would study math, maybe physics and then a non-STEM subject, but I ended up randomly choosing astronomy my freshman year and really loved it. I was very involved in research and that got me on the path to astronomy. And then many astronomy majors also double in physics [because] There is a lot of overlap in the courses.

Then I kind of came around [computer science] early in my sophomore year, partly because much of astronomy research is very computational.

A: Was there a favorite class you took with Wesleyan?

AF: The course I took in my freshman year, Introduction to Astrophysics, may still be my favorite course. It has a very special place in my heart. The lecturer of this course [Hughes] is now my research advisor and she is really awesome! I’ve had so many opportunities through this relationship and through the department.

I also took a course called Extinction/Rebellion: Christianity and the Climate Crisis. It was during COVID so I feel like I could have made more of it but still enjoyed it. And the reading list was super cool. It got me thinking about science and religion in a way I hadn’t done before.

A: What advice would you give to a prospective freshman who wants to get involved in science and computer science at Wesleyan?

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AF: Always remember that people come from different backgrounds and if you feel like people are ahead of you, they may not be. You just don’t see them fail. You only see yourself failing. The experiences and opportunities you had when you entered Wesleyan will not be the same, regardless of where you went to school or exactly what your life was like and what courses you took in high school. So there is no point in comparing yourself to others in your courses.

In general, the faculty want to talk to you and help you, especially with Wesleyan. A lot of people work at Wesleyan because they can teach small classes and get to know students, so leverage that network because that’s one of the really special things about a liberal arts college for science.

A: Was there someone who influenced you the most during your time at Wesleyan?

AF: Yes, my advisor Meredith Hughes. She’s basically the reason I’m majoring in astronomy and applying to grad school. I met her at the Wesleyan every week. Why I think astronomy is important to a society and why I think it’s worth doing is very much related to conversations I’ve had with her.

A: Do you have any plans after Wesleyan at the moment?

AF: I am applying for Astronomy Ph.D. programs. That’s my plan A, but I’m also thinking about getting into the software [development], depending on how the application process goes. This plan is not fully worked out.

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A: Aside from being involved in science on campus, working as a TA and doing research, what are your hobbies?

AF: I love to cook! I feel like I rarely have time to cook when I’m with Wes, and that made me really sad. I made a frittata yesterday and it was amazing! It was the first time I’ve cooked since I’ve been here [this semester] because it’s been a crazy couple of weeks and it’s been really nice. I enjoy crocheting and hiking, which I don’t usually get to do at Wesleyan. I’m from California and hiking and camping are very important to me.

A: With everything you do on campus, it seems like you have to manage your time wisely. Do you have tips for your time management?

AF: I feel like one of the keys to getting a lot done is being the opposite of a perfectionist. Be okay with half-hearted things.

If you’re trying to take five credits and TA and do research or play sports, you just won’t have the time to give 100 percent at everything. be able to prioritize [is important]. I heard a quote: “You juggle too many things. Imagine you have some rubber balls and some glass balls. So you have to know which ones to drop.” That’s definitely my philosophy. There are always things that fall through the cracks, even when you’re just a little busy. Making sure the right things fall is the most important thing.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Kelly Zhang can be reached at [email protected].

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