Our Alumni

Our alumni experiences are truly inspiring and rewarding by serving as an ongoing reminder of why PARI strives to reach for a greater goal, a stronger focus and provide inspiration for lifelong learning. We appreciate their determination for success and their dedication to make our world a better place. We are proud to share their experiences at PARI, and how it contributed to fulfilling their dreams.


“I am where I always wanted to be, and PARI played a key role in getting me here.”

Dr. Mercedes López-Morales, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
  • 2001 to 2004: As a student at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Mercedes López- Morales installed a telescope at PARI and used it remotely to collect data for her Ph.D. thesis.
  • 2004: Awarded a Ph. D. in Astronomy UNC- Chapel Hill.
  • Current: Staff Scientist, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, leading project teams using the Hubble Space Telescope to conduct research on exoplanets and prepare for the upcoming NASA TESS mission.
“PARI inspires young students. I had been involved with science most of my life, but when I first saw PARI I was in awe. I had never seen anything like it before and I grew to love the place. PARI provides accessibility to sophisticated instruments and offers learning experiences for students that are virtually nonexistent elsewhere. My Ph.D. thesis involved constructing a telescope and using it to collect data on M-dwarf stars. Unfortunately, I had no place to put the instrument and the options suggested to me were thousands of miles away. Fortunately, a faculty member knew of PARI and arranged a visit. The PARI staff welcomed me, offered access to the site and provided assistance I don’t think I could have gotten anywhere else. If it had not been for PARI I would not have been able to collect the data I needed. PARI fulfills a vital role in science education because it offers hands-on learning opportunities that are very rare. Students at PARI have an unparalleled opportunity to do real science and to learn by doing.”


“PARI provided learning
opportunities that changed
my career path.”

Dr. Rosalie McGurk, Carnegie Observatories, Pasadena, CA
  • 2004: Dr. Rosalie McGurk first visited PARI as a high school student attending a two-week Duke TIP summer program.
  • 2006: Spent the summer at PARI as the Sherry Austin undergraduate intern.
  • 2015: Awarded Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of California, Santa Cruz.
  • Current: Instrumentation Fellow, Carnegie Observatories, Pasadena, CA.
“When I was in high school I was interested in science and engineering but did not know what I really wanted to do. My experiences at PARI changed everything. At PARI, science became exciting in ways I had never experienced. I was given hands-on access to powerful telescopes that I could not have gotten anywhere else. I did real research for the first time and while studying a variable star I discovered that the pulsations of the star were slowing down, something no one else knew at the time. It was a remarkable experience and I left with the conviction that my career would be in research. PARI plays an important role for students by taking science out of the classroom and making it fun and exciting. My experience there was a turning point in my life.”


“PARI gave me real-world experience that confirmed what I wanted to do with my life.”

Dr. Patricia Craig, Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, AZ
  • 2003: Dr. Patricia Craig first visited PARI as a high school student attending a two-week Duke TIP summer program.
  • 2012: Awarded Ph.D. in Space and Planetary Sciences, University of Arkansas.
  • Current: Postdoctoral research scientist with the Planetary Science Institute, working with the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity.
“PARI provides access to instruments and hands-on experiences that are invaluable to students and difficult to obtain anywhere else. When I arrived at PARI as a high school student I was somewhat in awe of the equipment. The staff, however, was welcoming and helpful, providing an inviting atmosphere for students. I learned what it is to be an astronomer and for the first time in my life I did real research. I also was exposed to the critical experience of collaboration. Even now, as a science team member on Curiosity, I regularly collaborate with scientists from all over the world. That experience at PARI was invaluable. My PARI experience affirmed what I wanted to do with my life. I could not be happier with my career decision or my experience at PARI. It is truly a special place.”