A Bright Star in Northfield

By Zackary Bennett, NU Senior Writer

International student Amrutaa Vibho ’26 finds her home at Norwich after discovering her love of learning.

Image of Amrutaa Vibho

The path to Norwich University for Amrutaa Vibho ’26 was unique, even for an international student. Growing up in New Delhi, India, she learned at an early age of her passion for music. She was particularly drawn to the drums, and initially attended Trinity College, London’s institution in India to pursue a music degree focused on percussion. 

She was nearing the end of her degree program when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. “COVID happened to everything I had planned, and it made me realize the importance of the education that I needed,” she said.

Vibho decided to take a gap year rather than formally continuing college immediately. During this time, she enrolled in various academic programs. “It started with cybersecurity and computer science stuff, before going into artificial intelligence,” she said. Eventually, she found an interest in astronomy and astrophysics, a far-cry from her former education as a drummer; though, thinking back, she had some kind of interest in the subject dating back to childhood. 

“When I was young, the Columbia shuttle disaster happened,” said Vibho, whose father was posted at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and covering it at the time. “That was my introduction to the idea that there’s something beyond the sky called space.”

Her academic reawakening and rekindled interest in space was a much different endeavor than her previous goal of becoming a career musician. “I just never had the rigor or academic preparation to even think that I could pursue physics, or math, or whatever,” she said, thinking of a time before she was throwing herself into her studies.

Vibho’s hard work and persistence paid off as she landed a role in a research project with the University of Chicago, where she truly felt at home. “I started doing research with them on exoplanets and how to discover exoplanets using artificial intelligence,” she said. 

“One thing led to another, and I applied for permission to use the Goddard Spaceflight Center’s Fermi-LAT telescope.” Unsurprisingly, this was not your everyday request. “It became a huge thing,” said Vibho. “It became a research paper and everything, and I happened to successfully qualify about 31 dark matter candidates at the outskirts of the Milky Way galaxy.”

“Going from absolutely not having any academic background to that level, it took a lot of preparation,” she said. “That one year was maybe 16 hours of studying per day, every single day.” 

During all of it, she was also accepted into programs from Stanford and Yale. “I was doing that and preparing for the SATs and all of that stuff because I got interested in coming to the U.S.”

In the meantime, she was selected to go into suborbital space in a program through the Canadian Space Agency, the Institute for Astronomical Sciences. 

“Basically, I would study polar mesospheric clouds – so, lightning that shoots upwards from clouds that affects spacecraft.” It was noticed during the program that she had a knack for the subject. Knowing that she was interested in making it to America, someone in the program tossed out the idea of trying to take the test-pilot route to the U.S.

“That was a possibility I never heard of before,” said Vibho. She took a long-shot and applied to the Naval Academy; they loved her academics, but since she is not a citizen, she was not eligible for acceptance. They suggested she look into the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. 

“When I looked at ROTC, I saw Norwich was the birthplace of ROTC, and I’m someone who believes in founding principles,” she said. “That’s why I came to Norwich. Something just drew me in – the culture, the discipline, the formations, the customs and courtesies.”

Once she was officially a Rook, she quickly realized she wanted to rise to the position of Guidon Bearer. 

“That’s an attractive position because you can influence people and you represent the whole company,” she said. “From what I’ve seen, we have a lot of academic-minded people. Sure, they’re excellent in their military disciplines, but I want to show people that Norwich is very smart, especially in the Corps.” 

Fast-forward to today, and she is the Guidon Bearer of Hotel Company.

“Now, I want to follow in the footsteps of my two mentors,” said Vibho about moving up in the Corps. “They’re pushing me toward becoming battalion command sergeant major and then regimental commander as opposed to company commander,” and added that “I love that we have a shared sense of purpose because we go through Rookdom together.”

Even though she now has her responsibilities in the Corps to attend to, Vibho is still pursuing her dreams of space. During a recent trip with President Anarumo to Chicago, she had the chance to meet former U.S. military leadership from both the Army and Navy. Vibho mentioned her goal of obtaining citizenship, and rather than suggesting the military or trying for an

“Einstein visa,” they suggested she appeal directly to NASA. 

“So, this summer I got awarded a research fellowship where I’m designing water treatment systems for the International Space Station,” said Vibho.

'What started as a “small summer project” now has potential to become a multi-year contract. 

“I was told by the people I met in Chicago that every four years NASA selects astronauts, and the last selection took place in March of 2020,” said Vibho. “It just so happens that the next round is March of 2024, and even though I’m not a U.S. citizen, they encouraged me to prove myself to NASA and try to make my way into the moon program for 2024.”

Norwich Student Vibho performing Summer Research

Her lofty goal will take some delicate maneuvering because she needs to earn a doctorate degree. Luckily, she already has research under her belt with the International Space Station. “It’s the technicalities of the paperwork, it’s never happened before that an undergraduate is also dual enrolled as a Ph.D. student and they’re trying to work that out,” she said. “If that happens, I’d be able to prove academic ability and apply for the program to the moon. That’s where I am right now in candidacy for the Artemis program.”

As if that was not enough work, Vibho said she works on “multiple research projects at the same time.” Her primary area of research is high-energy astrophysics, which concerns itself with black holes and dark matter. “Finding the origin of the universe, trying to figure out what black holes emerged first, or the Big Bang and everything else like that,” she explained.

One of her other current projects is in partnership with MIT and the Ukrainian government. Its objective is to find radionuclide poisoning in their drinking water following Russia’s bombings. 

“We’re developing protocols to detect uranium, arsenic, thorium, and radioactive metals that would poison people in their drinking water.”

Still, she somehow found her way back to the drums. 

“There’s a drum kit in the chapel that I’m trying to get fixed and start a new heavy metal band,” she said, further highlighting the diverse opportunities the University provides to its students. 

Whether through academics, her work in the Corps, or her first-love, music, Vibho finds a way to explore it all at Norwich. Thinking of her post-Norwich future, she said that 

“Whether I end up NASA contracted, another person is Marine Corps contracted, or if they end up overseas somewhere, we all go through the same suffering, and I don’t think I could find that at a civilian college.”


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