Student Star: Shaheed Perez

Florida State University physics student shares passion for STEM with fellow students, greater Tallahassee community 

Name: Shaheed Perez
Major: Physics; Mathematics
Graduation: Spring 2025
Hometown: Belize
College: College of Arts & Sciences

“The many resources and opportunities to do research, such as the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, influenced my decision to attend FSU.”

Fast Facts

  1. Go-to campus meal: Fried rice and honey sesame chicken bowl from Panda Express 
  2. Family affair: Enrolled at FSU one year after mom graduated 
  3. Hero: Got to see Neil deGrasse Tyson live at an FSU Opening Nights event 
  4. Martial artist: Member of the Tallahassee Capoeira Club, a form of Brazilian martial arts 
  5. Music buff: Plays piano and looks for jazz clubs when visiting big cities 

Shaheed Perez’s journey at Florida State University has been shaped by a deep passion for physics and a commitment to both academic excellence and community engagement.

FSU’s Physics Department provided Perez with research opportunities in computational and experimental cosmology, allowing him to hone his skills in Python programming and data analysis.

Perez’s dedication to community service led him to establish the Future Physicists Society (FPS), aimed at providing undergraduate physics majors and STEM students with valuable resources and exposure to opportunities beyond the classroom.

Through his active involvement in initiatives such as the Tallahassee Science Festival and FPS, he has made significant contributions to STEM education and community enrichment.

In April 2024, Perez received a Barry Goldwater Scholarship, a national award that recognizes outstanding college students who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering.

What academic interests motivated you to attend FSU?

The physics program. I found my passion in physics in high school. FSU is known for having the best physics department in the state, and I knew would further stimulate my interest in the subject. The many resources and opportunities to do research, such as the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) and individual research opportunities with the physics faculty, also influenced my decision to attend FSU.

How do you believe your research contributes to the broader academic or scientific community?

I conducted research with Professor Kevin Huffenberger from Summer 2022 to Fall 2023 in computational cosmology, delving into the first successful prediction of the Standard Cosmological Model regarding the spatial flatness of the universe on large scales. This prediction provided constraints on early universe matter and energy, with the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) offering experimental evidence for these fluctuations. I replicated part of the research process, computing temperature fluctuations over simulated space to understand power spectrum fluctuations.

The research also involved investigating radiation detection in the CMB, aiming to separate it from Milky Way radiation. My project involved a lot of computations, which were done on a computer and involved the use of coding. I had to learn how to code in Python and operate in the Linux Terminal to conduct my research. I had very little knowledge of either before I started the project, and I became a lot more fluent in both. Presenting my research helped to enhance my communication skills and allowed me to network with researchers from diverse backgrounds.

How are you engaged outside the classroom?

Beyond the classroom, I served as a volunteer for the Florida Georgia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation at the Tallahassee Science Festival, where I interacted with children and families through various experiments related to the science of colors. Additionally, I founded the Future Physicists Society, which aims to provide resources and opportunities for undergraduate physics majors and STEM students. FPS organized workshops on research experiences, resume building, and internship events, as well as facilitated visits to national laboratories like the MagLab and planned tours to the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory in Louisiana to broaden members’ exposure to the field.

How do you think your community service activities have positively impacted the community or individuals you’ve served?

At the Tallahassee Science Festival, our engagement with young children sparked curiosity and critical thinking about science, evident through their insightful questions and active participation. The increasing turnout of families at subsequent events underscored the festival’s positive impact on the community. Within FPS, our regular meetings attract 10 to 12 attendees who benefit from workshops on research opportunities and career resources. Participants particularly enjoy National Lab tours, which offer a different perspective on physics, emphasizing exploration and discovery.