Thomas Callister, 2012 Goldwater Scholar

Thomas Callister received a Goldwater Scholarship in 2012 as a student at Carleton College, and attended the University of Cambridge on a Churchill Scholarship in 2013-14 before beginning a PhD program in Physics at Caltech. He is currently a member of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational- Wave Observatory (LIGO) team there, part of an international and multi-institutional project that recently reported the first-ever observation of gravitational waves. After the PhD, Tom intends to continue as a research scientist in the field of astrophysics because he finds it exciting to be “confronted all the time by the fact that we ultimately still know so little about the universe.” Research captured his attention as a career path for precisely that reason, and he tries to share that excitement with both the undergraduates he mentors during the summer and the K-12 students he meets as part of LIGO’s outreach work in the local community.

The Goldwater Scholarship application offered Tom the first opportunity to create a novel research proposal, which he found excellent preparation and practice for what is the heart of his field: asking valuable questions and developing methods for pursuing the answers. He was able to learn in-depth about pulsar astronomy and get a real introduction to astrophysical research in his mentor’s lab. In addition to adding prestige and recognition to his CV, the Goldwater also served as an important form of encouragement and a source of confidence as he approached the Churchill Scholarship and graduate program applications. He continues to recommend the Goldwater Scholarship to particularly gifted undergraduates and to value the early lessons and opportunities that set him on his current path.