When CSUDH physics major Jeisson Pulido was a child growing up in Las Cruces, an impoverished neighborhood in Bogotá, Colombia, he used to stare up at the stars in wonder. He never imagined that he would one day be working with the European Space Agency (ESA), helping to create a cutting-edge research satellite.
“The resources in my neighborhood schools were very low,” he remembers. “I didn’t receive a lot of education in math or physics, just the basics. I was never able to see myself studying in college or pursuing a science degree, because of the lack of funding in my schools. I was very good at math, but I didn’t even know that subjects like astronomy or physics existed.”
After moving to the United States during high school, Pulido discovered a new world of possibilities–and he’s been excelling and impressing ever since. The CSUDH senior plans to graduate with a BS in physics in spring 2023, with the goal of continuing on to graduate school.
Pulido’s hard work and dedication have earned him a 2022 CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement. The Trustees’ Award is the California State University’s highest recognition of student achievement, providing annual scholarships to one student from each CSU campus who demonstrates superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service, and financial need. In addition to the CSU Trustees’ Award, Pulido was named the recipient of the Ron and Mitzi Barhorst Scholarship, bringing his total award to $10,000.
When Pulido moved to Carson with his family at the age of 16, he didn’t speak English. He studied hard in his ESL classes, though, and practiced with other students at Carson High School. He was soon strong enough in English to help tutor others–and to find an academic path that spoke to his interests and talents.
“One of my teachers, Mr. Torres, saw that I was really good at math,” says Pulido. “He advised me that I might want to pursue a career in science. One of my counselors then suggested that I take physics. At first, I didn’t even know what that was, but I agreed to try it. I ended up falling in love with it!”
After graduating from Carson High, Pulido applied and was accepted at CSUDH. “I saw the diversity at Dominguez Hills and felt very comfortable here from the start,” he says. “A lot of people here have similar backgrounds to mine or are first-generation college students, and seeing them succeed made me feel empowered to continue my studies. CSUDH feels like a home away from home to me.”
In addition to excelling in the classroom and serving as an advanced peer tutor for his fellow CSUDH students, Pulido is a Cal-Bridge Scholar, president of the CSUDH Physics Club, and a California Bridge Electron-Ion Collider (CB-EIC) Fellow at UCLA, researching nuclear physics as part of the university’s Kang Research Group.
He has spent his last two summers participating in prestigious internships. In 2021, Pulido worked with the Center for Astrophysics: Harvard-Smithsonian, analyzing data from the Parker Sun Probe. “It’s basically the fastest manmade spacecraft in space,” says Pulido. “We used its data to analyze something called ‘flux ropes’ in space–the electromagnetic fields in space that originate from the sun.”
This past summer, Pulido got to travel to the Artemis Lab in Nice, France, to intern on the ESA’s Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) project. The LISA spacecraft is a collaborative project between ESA and NASA, scheduled to be launched in 2034.
“I was working on a really small thing called a photo receiver,” explains Pulido. “It’s one of the most important tools in detecting gravitational waves, which is very difficult. I calibrated the receivers, tested them, and checked if they are sensitive enough to detect those waves. I had to do a lot of programming to see if they’re good enough to be in the LISA spacecraft.”
Pulido had never worked hands-on with such rare, expensive equipment. “It was pretty scary to just look at them, let alone test them,” he laughs. “I knew that if I dropped them, that’s a lot of money down the drain.”
After graduating from CSUDH in 2023, Pulido plans to pursue a PhD in high-energy astrophysics. He would also like to mentor and encourage students in STEM fields, serving as an example of how hard work can pay off. He sees himself working for an aerospace agency in the future.
For Pulido, winning the CSU Trustee Scholarship means that he can serve as an inspiration for others in his community. “One day, people are going to see my story, see where I’m from, and get inspired to do the same things I did–or even greater things! To me, winning the scholarship makes me feel happy for myself, but also makes me feel happy for the others who can follow in my footsteps.”