With $250,000 award, U senior has a cosmic future

  • Article by: JENNA ROSS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 22, 2012 - 9:43 PM

Grant Remmen won the prestigious Hertz Fellowship, worth more than $250,000.

At age 11, Grant Remmen checked out the book "Black Holes and Time Warps," and the general theory of relativity captured his imagination. Just a decade later he already has investigated black holes, studied spin orbit coupling and published research on the Milky Way.

For that research, plus an impressive academic career, the University of Minnesota senior on Thursday was awarded a prestigious Hertz Fellowship worth more than $250,000, which will fund further journeys into the universe's darkest matters.

"This will be a really, really fantastic boon to my graduate career," Remmen said. "It opens a lot of doors in terms of being able to work with the top faculty in the world."

Because it funds up to five years of study for just 15 fellows, the Hertz is perhaps the nation's most generous and prestigious award for graduate education in applied sciences and engineering. For Remmen, it means the freedom to follow his research wherever it might lead, without being obligated to teach or find grant funding.

Remmen will graduate this spring summa cum laude in three majors -- astrophysics, physics and mathematics. It makes for a busy schedule but a fun one, he said. "I really love what I do."

He is still weighing offers from several top research universities. He plans to pursue a career in research, possibly at an institution such as NASA and develop "a theoretical understanding of dark matter and dark energy."

Remmen is from Detroit Lakes and picked the University of Minnesota because it offered the chance to do research as an undergraduate. He dug right in, conducting original research his first year.

As a sophomore, he won the Goldwater Scholarship, which is awarded annually to just 300 students nationwide. His work on dark matter and cosmic ray muon velocity distribution has appeared in the Journal of Undergraduate Research.

It's stuff that's hard to say, much less explain. But he believes that astrophysics and theoretical physics have and will serve as ambassadors to the general public for science as a whole.

"Einstein became a household name," he said. "The Apollo landings inspired a whole generation of students to go into the sciences. Astrophysics shows us what our place is in the universe and how the universe works.

"It's truly Earth-shattering, what it can tell us."

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168

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