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Greek Student from Thessaloniki Joins NASA Research Team

THESSALONIKI – He has earned a full scholarship to the top-ranked Franklin & Marshall College of Astrophysics. He excelled from his first semester and was even selected to join a NASA research team. Menelaos Raptis from Thessaloniki, speaking to the Athens/Macedonian News Agency, described his new duties analyzing the tons of data from the new James Webb Space Telescope.

“I am honored and delighted to now be part of the NASA research team that will analyse the data from the James Webb Space Telescope,” he says enthusiastically, explaining that this is the most impressive and one of the greatest modern achievements in space, a space telescope launched in December 2021, giving humanity the most beautiful windowon the magic of space.
Franklin & Marshall College, as he points out, offered him from first academic semester a plethora of skills, while cultivating his abilities to a very high degree, preparing him for something truly amazing.

“In collaboration with a professor from the Astronomy and Physics department of the college, I prepared myself for quite difficult and demanding challenges, mainly in programming but also in astrophysics,” he notes and explains that, “the pre-existing basic knowledge I had in programming and specifically in the Python programming language, was greatly enhanced, directing me from my existing knowledge towards improvement and enrichment. After this challenging training, the professor in charge considered me not only competent but also the ideal student to be givne the opportunity to analyze space data, with the professor in charge. I will not hide that during my first academic semester I demonstrated perseverance, patience, but above all passion! I am convinced that this love for research, innovation, and science is what set me apart, what gave me the ticket to a dream come true.”

Referring to the field of research he will be involved in at NASA, he said: “It is one of the most difficult in the field of astrophysics as it combines many elements of science, but also the imagination of the researcher. The way in which I will analyse the specific data depends on my ideas and my ability, which will of course be accompanied by the guidance of my professor. This telescope will allow for a broadening of research and analysis, in terms of astronomy and cosmology, while my research will focus on the evolution of galaxies, how the life and demise of a star affects galaxies, and perhaps I will also explore some features that will identify potentially habitable planets.”

For Menelaos Raptis, the path he is charting is a lifelong dream. As he explains, it is a path that not only involved the cultivation of the spirit of endeavors through demanding work, but also the carving of a unique path that can be likened to a labyrinth.

He says that his recent personal successes, on the other hand, include not only a focus on his goals, but also a constant struggle for social, cultural and linguistic adaptation. He is on a difficult and challenging journey.

He stresses that the path he has chosen is not an easy one. “The research and the courses were particularly difficult. The biggest challenge for me, however, was to properly develop the capacity for adaptability so that I could cope with new conditions, living thousands of kilometres away from Greece,” he notes.

“It is difficult,” he adds, “to be able to communicate proficiently in a foreign language and to express your thoughts fully. It is difficult to study for many hours every day, and it is difficult to cope with competition, but it is almost impossible to transfer your heart to another place. I have never been able to do that, nor do I wish for that to happen. Throughout my academic career so far, however, I have been able to control strong emotions and I believe that achieving emotional balance and maturity were the elements that ultimately helped me stand out.”

Life in America is glamorous but at the same time, complex and quite difficult, he explains, but it undoubtedly rewards him sufficiently both academically and socially. It is a challenge to make new friends, to adapt, and to secure resources, but he is also on the path to happiness and therefore to success.

“True success, comes only through happiness! It is a struggle and requires courage… One of the hardest challenges I have had to face has been being away from the family I love so much for long periods of time, being separated from the people I connect with spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. I will state that the intangible, sweet connection that exists in our hearts has accompanied me throughout the semester, adding to the alphabet of my soul the A and the Z -love,” he confided.

With exemplary maturity, the honors student explains how his next plans include enjoying this great achievement. “I am convinced that a person’s greatest achievement is to be able to enjoy what he has accomplished up to a given moment, to withstand the fast pace of life by slowing down time and appreciating his accomplishment.
My next plans are to better prepare myself with regard to research, my total concentration and dedication to it, while maintaining a balance, however, with other pursuits such as sports,” he concluded.

(Material from the ANA/MPA article by Alexandra Hadjigeorgiou was used above)


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