Chapter president reaches sky high

By Sarah Burke, Carnegie Mellon News

From the time he was seven years old and reading picture books about space, Fred Dauphin has wanted to learn as much as he can about the universe.

Getting accepted at Carnegie Mellon University to study astrophysics, and receiving the Stanley Wasserman Memorial Scholarship, made it possible for the Sigma Alpha Epsilon brother to shoot for the moon.  

Every day, this remarkable CMU senior is growing as a scholar and pursuing his lifelong dream of becoming an astrophysics researcher — thanks to his generous scholarship donors, Dr. Allen L. Wasserman, a 1956 alumnus of the Mellon College of Science, and Pamela Henderson.  

“My academic experience at CMU has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” Dauphin said. “Studying physics in such an established institution has pushed me far beyond my intellectual limits and continues to do so.”

Dauphin is most captivated by black holes and neutron stars. He says he is inspired by how rapidly his field is gaining knowledge and making breakthroughs — for example, the first image of a black hole was captured by scientists in April 2019.   

“We are living in the most exciting time to do research in astrophysics,” he said. “There is so much to be discovered, and with the many advancements in technology to make those discoveries, the possibilities are boundless.”

At CMU, Dauphin has had the opportunity to take his learning beyond the classroom and into the lab, working with Professor of Physics Markus Deserno and doctoral candidate Sam Foley to conduct research.  

“It’s great to see knowledge and concepts from my classes have a larger significance,” he said. “The three main skills I have developed are problem solving, perseverance and communication.”

Dauphin said that conducting research has helped him break problems into their smallest parts in order to work toward solutions. He also has learned how to push through the frustration of his chosen methods not working to arrive at the best strategy. Finally, he has become better equipped to explain his work to others, both inside and outside his field.  

A single mantra has stuck with Dauphin since CMU Orientation: “Be obsessed with the problem.”  

“When an extremely difficult problem finds its way into my homework, I can’t stop thinking about it,” he said. “CMU has developed me into an individual who will try every solution possible before giving up.”  

When Dauphin is not busy racing toward the next breakthroughs in science, he stays active as a sprinter and jumper on the CMU men’s track and field team. He said this experience has taught him to seize new opportunities when they present themselves.  

“Setting not only academic goals, but also athletic goals, keeps my ambitions high for myself,” Dauphin said. “It focuses me on what’s important and burns the fire inside of me to compete at a top level. Ambition has always been my top value since high school, and it is one reason why I am here today.”

In addition to pushing his limits on the track, Dauphin is making an impact through his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE).  

Dauphin and his fraternity brothers organize the annual Donut Dash, a family-friendly race that benefits the Mario Lemieux Foundation’s Austin’s Playrooms Initiative. For Dauphin, the event exemplifies SAE’s core values of leadership and service.  

“My brothers and I see great value in helping others and our community,” he said.  

As Dauphin enters his final semester at CMU, he said he is thankful for all of the life-changing opportunities his scholarship has made possible for him.  

“This scholarship has shown me that alumni care about the future of the university,” Dauphin said. “It’s been so fulfilling to see my dreams come to fruition. Someday, I hope to inspire other students to pursue their careers by giving back to CMU.”