Physics Major Receives GoFundMe Scholarship

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Singularities - Profiles in Physics

Physics Major Receives GoFundMe Scholarship


 Kendra Redmond, Contributing Writer

Mayia Vranas in front of her lab's physical property measurement system. Photo courtesy of Mayia Vranas.

Physics major Mayia Vranas was recently awarded one of ten $10,000 scholarships from the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe. Winners were chosen on the basis of having overcome obstacles, showing great character, and demonstrating academic promise. 

Inspired by her physicist father, Vranas’ childhood dream was to earn a physics PhD and be a professor at a leading university. Her path has been a challenging one, starting with a diagnosis of Tourette’s Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in third grade, and later with depression and anxiety. An academically gifted student, she struggled to stay mentally challenged in school while keeping anxiety, excitement, sleep, and stress in check to avoid exacerbating the motor and vocal tics caused by Tourette’s, which are often painful and tiring.

Vranas, now a sophomore at Berkeley and co-vice president of the SPS chapter there, is on track to reach her goal. She is a researcher in a condensed matter lab, where she contributes to research on the exotic magnetism of lithium iridates, which exhibit frustrated magnetism due to their honeycomb lattice structure. She has also established a mentoring program for incoming physics majors through SPS. “Mayia knows the many challenges that minorities in the field face, and through contributing to the community, she hopes that she will make it easier for diverse individuals to prosper,” wrote Vranas’ mother on the scholarship entry.

The SPS Observer asked Mayia to tell us more about her SPS experience and what this scholarship means to her.

Here is what she had to say:

I am extremely honored to receive this scholarship from GoFundMe. Becoming a physics major at UC Berkeley has been both challenging and rewarding. As a person with a disability and an aspiring physicist, every aspect of my life has been a balancing act; I must struggle to maintain my sleep and health while also maintaining my schoolwork and passion. There have been times where I felt inadequate because I did not have time to learn the material at the depth that I hold myself to. Being part of Berkeley’s Society of Physics Students has helped me find my place in the intense academic environment.

Mayia Vranas (center) with Maccallum Robertson and Victoria Sosnovtseva posing for UC Berkeley's “Big Give” fundraiser. Photo courtesy of Keegan Houser.

Meeting other physics majors at the end of their undergraduate paths and absorbing their advice and wisdom has helped me build the confidence I need to succeed, both as a physicist and as a student. Though they each had different experiences, these students all were going through exactly what I was—the feeling of inadequacy, the crunch to learn, and the difficulty of finding balance.

After finding a home in my SPS community, I decided to become involved, running for co-vice president. In this position, I hope to continue to foster and develop the supportive environment that has helped me succeed. Physics is a collaborative effort among many diverse individuals to discover and understand something bigger than us all, and I want to help make sure that everyone coming into the field feels at home.

About the scholarship

GoFundMe is a crowdfunding platform. In response to the number of students creating GoFundMe pages to help them pay for higher education, last fall the company encouraged students to start fundraising pages tagged with #GFMScholarship and share their stories. Parents, friends, and mentors were also able to create pages on behalf of students. Those who received contributions from at least ten unique donors were reviewed by GoFundMe judges, who selected ten winners of $10,000 each. 

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Singularities - Profiles in Physics