SAFE Grant Student Spotlight: Robert Lewis '19, Physics and Astronomy

SAFE Grant Student Spotlight: Robert Lewis ‘19, Physics and Astronomy

Robert Lewis was an undergraduate student in from Bailey, N.C. 

Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) fund recipient 

Project: “Fractionation through photodesorption of 12CO-13CO interstellar ice analogues”

Through SAFE grant funding, Lewis was able to attend the 50th Lunar and Planetary Sciences Conference (LPSC) in The Woodlands, Texas. At the conference, Lewis presented research with co-author, Lucas Smith, Physics and Astronomy ‘20, that explores carbon inheritance in forming planetary systems. Lewis conducted his research with Smith during the summer of 2019 at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab in California study led by Dr. Rachel Smith, Associate Professor in the Department and Head of the Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Laboratory and Curator of Meteorites at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (NCMNS) in Raleigh, N.C. Lewis was a part of this research team exploring the early chemistry in forming planetary systems, which will also help researchers better understand important details of our own solar system as it was forming ~4.6 billion years ago. 

“As an undergraduate student, it was an incredible experience that was filled with many opportunities to learn and network,” said Lewis.

Having the opportunity to give this presentation allowed Lewis to expand his ability to communicate his current research and solidify scientific communication as one of his passions. Attending the LPSC and working with mentor, Dr. Rachel Smith, broadened Lewis’s base of scientific interests for future study in graduate school and the professional world. He considered this experience instrumental to his development as a student. 

“I was able to fully enjoy and take advantage of the opportunities at the conference and carry those experiences with me in my educational journey. It would not have been possible without the funding from the SAFE funding,” Lewis reflects. 


About The SAFE Fund
Initially endowed by Hughlene and Bill Frank, the College of Arts and Sciences Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) Fund provides resources that can be used to support undergraduate, graduate and faculty experiences. The SAFE Fund provides funding for college priorities and opportunities that arise throughout the year. These unrestricted funds support student and faculty travel, publication support for faculty and student research opportunities. Learn more at:

About the Department of Physics and Astronomy
The Department of Physics and Astronomy’s curriculum has an applied nature that includes a core of fundamental physics courses and laboratory experiences. The department prepares graduates for a variety of scientific, teaching or engineering professions, as well as future educational endeavors. Learn more at

Compiled and written by Barclay Ann Blankenship and Ellen Gwin Burnette
July 22, 2020

SAFE Grant Student Spotlight: Robert Lewis '19, Physics and Astronomy
Published: Jul 22, 2020 9:41am