HCCC Student Presents on Black Holes at the American Museum of Natural History

September 17, 2018

September 17, 2018, Jersey City, NJ – Hudson County Community College (HCCC) student Sarra Hayoune used cosmological simulations to study wandering supermassive black holes, and developed a Python program to track and analyze their positions in dwarf galaxies. It’s a project that would likely have made Stephen Hawking proud. 

This summer, Ms. Hayoune was an Astrophysics Research Intern at the American Museum of Natural History. This unique opportunity allowed her to present her findings at the museum.  During the summer, she completed three presentations. The first one was the 50th anniversary of the Astronomical Society of New York; the second one was the 16th annual Physical Sciences REU Student Symposium; and a presentation at Queensborough Community College. “One of the highlights of the experience was speaking to an audience that included Neil deGrasse Tyson – the Hayden Planetarium director at the Rose Center for Earth and Space (AMNH) and the host of StarTalk,” commented Ms. Hayoune.

An Algerian immigrant who speaks Arabic, French, and English, Ms. Hayoune arrived in the United States in 2014. A short while after their son was born, her husband, Abderahim Salhi – an HCCC student, who recently was one of just 10 students in the U.S. to be awarded a Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education – encouraged her to take ESL classes at the College. Ms. Hayoune started at HCCC in Spring 2016, and subsequently set her sights on a degree in Computer Science.  “It is difficult to overstate how impactful Hudson has been on my life and my family,” added Hayoune.

Her persistence and hard work are paying off. She was chosen to participate in a 10-week National Science Foundation research project through Queensborough Community College.  “The most important lesson that I learned through this experience is that astronomy is an important part of society. There are many things that people encounter on an everyday basis that were derived from astronomical technologies, which include advances in imaging and communications, applications of astronomical tools in medicine, and many other examples,” Ms. Hayoune wrote in the August 2018 issue of the College’s Beta Alpha Phi newsletter.

Ms. Hayoune recently earned three scholarships – Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise, Research & Development Council of New Jersey-Merit, and Garden State S-STEM. More than half of the Research & Development Council of New Jersey Merit Scholarship awards went to HCCC Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) members. (Ms. Hayoune is the vice president of the HCCC PTK chapter, Beta Alpha Phi.) Additionally, she was selected as a fellow from a pool of over 60 first-generation college students in New Jersey to serve in “America Needs You,” the two-year development and leadership training program. 

“Sarra exemplifies how hard work and dedication can make a difference,” said Dr. Chris Reber, President of HCCC.  “We applaud all of her academic, research and scholarship accomplishments, as well as her dedication to projects that better our community.  She represents the very best of HCCC.”

Sarra Hayoune is set to graduate HCCC in May 2019. Upon graduation she plans to transfer to an Ivy League university to further her education and attain her Ph.D. in computer science and astronomy. 

In the meantime, she is helping other HCCC students build their knowledge and skills as a math and calculus tutor at the College. She is also a peer mentor for the Northern New Jersey Bridges to Baccalaureate program, where she provides fellow students with support on their pathways to academic success. Ms. Hayoune is also president of the College’s STEM Club.

In her spare time, Ms. Hayoune enjoys gardening, cooking, and photography. She has volunteered for Friends of Liberty State Park, Jersey Cares with Goldman Sachs, and the American Cancer Society.