Carnegie Mellon University
May 18, 2017

Stephanie O’Neil Earns 2017 Fugassi and Monteverde Award

By Emily Payne

Stephanie O’Neil is the recipient of this year’s Dr. J. Paul Fugassi and Linda E. Monteverde Award. The award recognizes the graduating female senior with the greatest academic achievement and professional promise.

O’Neil, who majors in physics and creative writing, has been a dedicated student and researcher and an active member of the Carnegie Mellon campus community. In the summer of 2015, O’Neil participated in high energy particle physics research through the Research Experience for Undergraduate Students (REU) at the College of William & Mary. Her work on the Liquid Argon Time Projection Chamber earned her the award for the best final presentation among the REU participants.

The following summer, O’Neil worked on signal analysis for navigation at Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Mass., where she again won the award for the best final presentation among student interns in her research group. Working with Lena Valavani, a Distinguished Member of the Draper Laboratory Technical Staff, O’Neil developed a tool that sorted through a database to extract signals with desired properties. The tool then computed the power spectral densities of the signals.

“Stephanie learned what she needed on her own in a short amount of time in the lab and delivered a very efficient analysis tool that had not existed before and would take considerable development effort on a regular engineer’s time,” Valavani wrote. “I have supervised and advised hundreds of graduate and undergraduate students at MIT and universities in Europe. Stephanie definitely ranks among the top for her intellectual ability, agility, versatility, scientific curiosity, resourcefulness, initiative, maturity, dedication and hard work, all of which are enabled by an extremely high level of intelligence.”

At Carnegie Mellon, O’Neil has been working with Assistant Professor of Physics Matthew Walker since the fall of 2015 studying dwarf galaxies. O’Neil focused on inferring dark matter contents of dwarf spheroidal galaxies orbiting the Milky Way. 

O’Neil also dedicates her time to a number of extracurricular activities. She is a member of the Kiltie Band, Flute Choir, All University Orchestra and the Physics Steering Committee, secretary of the Astronomy Club and a tutor in the Physics Upper Class Course Center. Last year, she was the undergraduate representative for the MCS college council.

After graduation, O’Neil will join MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research to pursue her Ph.D. in astrophysics.