Ten students from Georgia State University’s Perimeter College have been named semifinalists for the 2023 Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The Jack Kent Cooke award is a competitive scholarship for the nation’s top two-year college students. It provides recipients with up to $55,000 per year, placing the scholarship among the largest private awards in the country for community college transfer students. The following is a profile of one of Perimeter’s ten semifinalists. They are among 459 semifinalists selected from more than 1,700 applicants attending 215 community colleges in 38 states.
DUNWOODY, Ga.—Kseniya Harrington studies the presence of UFOs in space.
“But not alien UFOs,” the Perimeter College physics student said, with a smile.
Her research is on Ultra-fast Outflows, phenomena often found in the spectra of many Seyfert galaxies in quasars and supermassive black holes. Recently, she presented her findings on UFO gas in the quasar PDS 456 during the 100th annual Georgia Academy of Science meeting at Georgia College and State in Milledgeville.
Studying black holes in far-off galaxies may seem like a far cry from someone who took their first college science course online barely four years ago. For Harrington, it’s the realization of a dream to make a difference in scientific research.
Harrington’s drive to reach for the outer limits of space represents just one of the reasons she’s been recognized as a semifinalist for the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer scholarship.
Like many nontraditional students at Perimeter College, Harrington’s educational journey started with a few classes in between working full-time.
“I was working in Georgia State’s admissions office processing applications when I decided to take advantage of the tuition assistance program,” Harrington said.
“I hadn’t taken a science class since high school, but I always got good grades and I liked science, so I took my first chemistry class online while I was working. I fell in love with it.”
Harrington, who came to the U.S. from Ukraine in 2016 to be a nanny, took more courses, coming to the Dunwoody Campus to do her labs, before finally deciding to go to college full time in 2021. “I decided to finish my associate degree and see where life takes me.”
While she initially intended to study chemistry, she said she fell in love with physics and began pursuing more research under the guidance of Dunwoody astronomy and physics professor Dr. Jay Dunn. She also got involved as president of the college SPACE Club. The club often travels to local Dunwoody elementary schools to conduct science experiments. “We build rocket models and lava lamps and talk about science to kids in different grades. It’s a lot of fun.” On campus, she also has served as a supplemental instructor in both physics and chemistry classes, helping her fellow students in that role.
Harrington is excited to report that her research has paid off. After more than a year of searching for a particular UFO in the Dunwoody Campus physics labs, she hit the proverbial astronomical jackpot, finding a whole new UFO near a quasar that had not yet been identified. Her findings will be published in the scientific publication, Astrophysical Journal, later this year.
Harrington is cautiously optimistic about her future. She keeps in touch with her parents, who are still in Ukraine, and talks to them regularly, despite the ongoing war with Russia.
“Early on, for a few months, they did not have any cell phone service, and I worried. But I have been able to stay in touch with them,” she said.
Receiving the JKC scholarship would be life-changing and enable her to continue her scientific path, she said. The 28-year-old honors student graduates this May and hopes to either continue her studies in applied physics with a concentration in material sciences at either the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Georgia State.
“This scholarship would mean a lot to me,” she said. “I would have the opportunity to do what like and contribute to society in a way that matters as well as add to scientific progress.”
Story by Rebecca Rakoczy
Photo by Bill Roa