Astrophysicist seeking Earthlike planets.

Munazza Alam is searching for the Earth's twins. This planet, which would be cool enough to have liquid water, is theoretical, but Munazza, a graduate student at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for  Astrophysics, pores over telescopic data in hopes of finding it.

Growing up in New York City, Munazza didn't pay much attention to space. Then, as a teenager, she saw the Milky Way for the first time on a trip to the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona.

Now the atmospheres of exoplanets are the subject of her her academic fascination.

Entering the field wasn't easy. ''I am usually the only person who looks like me in a room full of astronomers,'' she says. ''Since I am sometimes my own worst critic, I have had to work extra hard to show myself that I am capable and that I belong in astronomy.''

2. LILLANA GUTIERREZ MARISCAL : Biologist empowering women in coastal Mexico

If one of us makes it, we all will. This is a common saying amongst women in EI Mangglito, a Mexican fishing village where biologist Lillana Gutierrez works.

''Inside their communities,'' says Gutirrez, women ''see the whole picture."

She helped found an organization that invests in fishery restoration in Mexico and now works with female leaders to protect the ocean and uplift their coastal towns. 

''They truly and deeply understand the connection between children, education, and the health of oceans.

3. EVGENIA ARBUGAEVA : Photographer exploring life in the Russian Arctic,

One roll of a film in high school class hooked Evgenia Arbugaeva, now an acclaimed documentarian of the Russian Arctic.

''In photography I instantly saw an endless potential in capturing and telling stories, the beauty of total immersion in the moment and at the same time creative control of it,'' she says.

To fully understand her isolated subjects. Arbugaeva spends moths and years absorbed in life on the tundra. Her project includes a look at her Arctic hometown.

''In the field I ask myself. have i given the maximum of myself to it?'' she says. ''I try to reach a point of a clean conscience about this.''

The World Students Society thanks authors at the National Geographic.


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