Arianna Long is a 2nd year physics student studying extragalactic astrophysics. She is fascinated by extremely large and distant galaxies – we still cannot figure out how these galaxies gained mass so quickly in the early Universe. Arianna is currently working on determining whether galaxies in clusters formed all of their stars rapidly and simultaneously across vast cosmic distances before falling into cluster formation – or is it instead more steady and stochastic? Post PhD she is exploring several career paths including academia and policy research, but it is very important to her that she remains in a research environment that also provides opportunities for teaching and mentorship. Outside of physics Arianna enjoys gardening, movie-going, and exploring with her dog and husband. To maintain a good work-life balance Arianna schedules in regular time for reflection, self-care, escape, and connection. Once a week and quarter, she plans and reflects on her progress toward her goals, both academic and non-academic. For self-care, she takes weekly baths, does yoga, and enjoys trying new clean food recipes. For escape, she reads fiction for 30 minutes every night before bed; and for connection, she reserves one night a week to stay in with her husband, turn off their phones, make pizza, and watch a movie together.

Arianna helped create the PACE program with fellow grad student Katy Rodriguez Wimberly. Physics and Astronomy Community Excellence (PACE) is a multitiered peer mentorship program that seeks to strengthen the student community in the department. All of the programs foster discussions that focus on identifying and defining the needs of the individual and defining what holistic success means for each person. In the programs, a lot of time is spent sharing learned experiences with one another – both good and bad – which helps everyone relate and empathize more, reduce feelings of isolation, and share tools for success that everyone has inevitably garnered during their tenure. Arianna and Katy created the PACE program in response to a national report and a departmental report that demonstrated a serious need for mentorship among grad students. They both had numerous experiences in mentorship settings, beginning as early as high school and continuing all the way up through the foundation of PACE, and through these experiences Arianna was exposed to many mentors and tools for success that she still cherishes today. In the upcoming academic year, Arianna is looking forward to PACE’s newest initiatives which include building in more leadership roles for PACE “graduates” and developing a framework for senior grad mentorships – particularly those in the writing and job application phases of their careers. With PACE, Arianna hopes to leave a legacy of dedication to peer mentorship. She hopes this program becomes a solidified part of the departmental structure, so we join the new wave of initiatives across the country that are demonstrating (even scientifically) how mentorship can completely change the professional and mental health outcomes of those involved – for the better.


The Student Spotlights are a series brought to you by a collaboration between the UCI Physics and Astronomy Blog Team and the Physics Graduate Caucus at UCI