Willow Held-Pistone ’19

Working Every Day Towards Something Big

Willow  Held-Pistone ’19 Picture

Iona logo A physics major originally from Poughkeepsie, NY (F.D. Roosevelt High School), Willow Held-Pistone ‘19, is a recent recipient of the Clare Boothe Luce Undergraduate Research Award from the Henry Luce Foundation. This award has become one of the single most significant sources of private support for women in science, mathematics, and engineering in Higher Education in the United States, and will allow Willow to continue her research in Martian emission spectroscopy analysis.

Most recently, Willow presented at the Annual Planetary Science Meeting of the American Astronomical Society held in Knoxville TN, with the mentorship of Brother Robert Novak. Her paper, "Sensible Ozone on Mars based on two-dimensional maps of O2 Emissions,” analyzed data taken on January 30, 2018, at the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF).

“Going to the conference to present my work was an incredible experience and really opened my eyes to the breadth of the scientific discovery and developments that are happening right now, which I feel lucky to be a part of. I am extremely grateful to Br. Robert Novak for welcoming me onto his research team.”

When not in the lab, Willow can be found training with the Iona women’s crew team, which she has been a member of since freshman year. It was a fellow crew member from high school, who had been attending Iona, who inspired her to consider the college. Now a senior, she recalls, “One of my most valuable memories from my time at Iona is being in one of the Ryan Library study rooms with my best friend, where she said, ‘I want to do something with my life. I don't want it to be boring.’ and it was then that we both decided we were going to grind every day and do something big! That's the moment I decided to go into Physics.”

Willow’s plans for her last year at Iona are to draft a paper she hopes to publish, discussing the changes in the Ozone emission rates from the Martian atmosphere throughout its seasons; learning as much as she can; completing the fall crew season well; and having fun with friends. Her advice to new and prospective students is that “Iona is like an infinitely long hallway with an infinite amount of doors for you to choose from. You just have to pick one and open it! I don't think I would have ever gotten the same opportunities and experiences at another school.”

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