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March 2017

 

 

CIERA Researchers Highlight Their Expertise in Seven Minutes or Less

On March 16, 2017, CIERA graduate students Paul Williams and Michael Zevin showcased their skills in public speaking at the bi-annual event: “Seven Minutes of Science.” Seven Minutes of Science is the culmination of 10-weeks of practice and coaching, where the individuals present on their complex research to a general audience within a seven-minute time frame. In the past, the course has been offered exclusively to NU graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, but this quarter it was also opened to faculty for the first time.

The event is organized by the RSG program, in association with CIERA’s new data science program, Integrated Data-Driven Discovery in Earth and Astrophysical Science (IDEAS). A shared goal of both programs is to increase awareness for the need of excellent science communicators, and to coach researchers to improve their presentation skills.

This year, fourteen speakers discussed their research in a broad range of scientific topics—from creating simulations that will assist in heart valve surgery, to investigating the Earth’s crust near the Great Lakes in order to better understand how new earth is formed on the ocean floor.

Paul and Michael represented CIERA by speaking on their astrophysical investigations. Paul’s presentation was titled Balloons Above Antarctica: The Coolest Place to Put a Telescope, and discussed his work with Next Generation Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope (BLAST) currently being constructed in Antarctica.

Michael’s talk was called Revealing the Lives of Stars Through the Cataclysmic Collisions of Black Holes, and focused on his role within CIERA’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) group, and the unknown unknowns that will define the course of future research in gravitational waves. Associate Neda Rohani (EECS) also presented on her work with LIGO affiliated project, Gravity Spy.

Click pictures to view larger images.
Paul Williams Complete event program Michael Zevin Neda Rohani

 

New Issue of “LIGO Magazine” Features Gravity Spy Article by Mike Zevin

The tenth issue of LIGO Magazine is now available for download. This issue focuses on LIGO’s second observation run, “O2”. In “Getting ready for O2: A data analysis perspective”, gravitational-wave astronomers Sarah Caudill and Vivien Raymond discuss preparing to analyze the new data. Vivien is a Northwestern PhD from CIERA Director Vicky Kalogera’s research group.

Mike Zevin, a 3rd year doctoral student at Northwestern, penned a feature article, “The Gravity Spy Project: Machine learning and citizen science” highlighting the relationship between professional astronomers and citizen scientists which is making analyzing LIGO data more effective.

Gravity Spy is a collaboration between Northwestern University (PI), led by Mike Zevin and Scott Coughlin with PI Vicky Kalogera and co-PI Aggelos Katsaggelos (Northwestern’s team is comprised of a LIGO group in CIERA and a machine learning group in the Image and Video Processing Laboratory), The Adler Planetarium, led by co-PI Laura Trouille, Syracuse University, led by co-PI’s Kevin Crowston and Carsten Østerlund, California State University at Fullerton, led by co-PI Josh Smith, and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Check out past issues of LIGO magazine.


 

CIERA Pilot Program Exposes Students to Astronomy Research

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are crucial to innovation, yet many challenges exist to producing highly qualified STEM graduates. CIERA Professor Dave Meyer and graduate student Cody Dirks implemented a pilot of a new program called Engaging Introductory Astronomy Students in Authentic Research through Citizen Science through a National Science Foundation (NSF) initiative called Improving Undergraduate Science Education (IUSE).

This NSF-IUSE supported pilot curriculum project created at CIERA encourages development in undergraduate STEM education through experiential teaching, innovative metrics of learning, and undergraduate research. In addition to Northwestern, the project is being pilot-tested at Oakton Community College, University of St. Thomas, and University of Pittsburgh for comparison. A key element is encouraging student participation in scientific processes.

With the help of the Adler Planetarium, Meyer and Dirks implemented the IUSE pilot in Meyer’s Astronomy 120 course, Highlights of Astronomy, this past fall. In place of a traditional final paper in which students assess the validity of a news article reporting on an astronomical discovery, students designed and presented a scientific project from a set of data.

“We’re trying to give students a chance to do science of their own by getting their hands on some data and letting them come up with an actual scientific project,” said Dirks.

In place of traditional classroom lectures about galaxies, Meyer also “flipped the classroom” by creating a series of online video lectures which created in-class time to run examples and creative activities.

The first half of the quarter was spent accustoming students to large amounts of data and giving them tools like spreadsheet manipulation and basic statistical analysis. For instance, Meyer would have students work on data that he would use to demonstrate concepts like Hubble’s Law.

The second half of the quarter exposed them to real-world examples of larger datasets that students would analyze for the final project. Meyer gave students a spreadsheet of 20,000 rows of data about galaxies—including their magnitudes, size estimates, etc.—from Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Based on what they learned in class about galaxies, students would come up with a research question.

For the final project, students prepared a 4-minute narrated video that explained their project idea, data analysis, results, and a summary of what they learned. Dirks noted that this method allows students to understand for themselves the process that goes into producing a scientific article, analyzing data, and producing results.

So far students have enjoyed the ability to be hands-on with data. Dirks said, “a lot of them like the idea of getting to use actual data for a project, which is the point to begin with, to get them exposed to using actual data and doing a scientific project of their own even if they aren’t a STEM major.”

The program will be implemented in the same class next fall with Meyer, Dirks, and possibly another Teaching Assistant with several changes to refine the program. If successful, the program will be an encouraging step towards implementation in classrooms beyond Northwestern.


 

CIERA Professor Giles Novak Joins ALMA Science Advisory Committee

Professor Giles Novak has been appointed as a member of the ALMA Science Advisory Committee (ASAC). ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter-Submillimeter Array, is located in the Atacama desert in Chile and is an international partnership of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan, and several other international groups.

ALMA is the largest astronomical project in existence, composed of 66 high precision antennas located at 16,000 feet elevation. The ASAC provides scientific advice to the ALMA board regarding the scientific operation of ALMA, serving as representatives of the wider astronomical community. Novak is serving a three-year term starting this year.




 

Professor Jeremy Kasdin Presents CIERA Winter Interdisciplinary Colloquium

On March 1, Princeton University’s N. Jeremy Kasdin presented, “Finding and Characterizing Earth 2.0: An Engineering and Astronomy Partnership” to an audience of approximately 80 people. Dr. Kasdin is Professor of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering (with an affiliated appointment in Astrophysics) and Principal Investigator of Princeton’s interdisciplinary High Contrast Imaging Laboratory.

Professor Kasdin focused his talk on the increasing discoveries of exoplanets. He described techniques and advances in imaging exoplanets, an area that has benefited from a close partnership between engineering and astrophysics. He also shared his own career path, which has included roles both in industry and academia, and talked about supporting students interested in interdisciplinary areas of study.






Click pictures to view larger images.

 

February 2017

 

 

Media Seek Expertise on New Planets in TRAPPIST-1 System

Local astronomers, in their roles here at CIERA and at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium, received a flurry of press requests for interviews and quotations in relation to the discovery of a system of exoplanets announced by NASA in February. Though CIERA’s researchers were not directly involved in the discovery of the seven new planets, their ability to communicate its meaning to the public was invaluable to local press.

Adler Planetarium Director of Citizen Science and CIERA Postdoctoral Research Affiliate, Laura Trouille, was interviewed about Planet Hunters and other Zooniverse citizen science projects on National Public Radio’s Science Friday February 24 (hear the segment here; Dr. Trouille begins at about 9 minutes in).

Aaron Geller, NSF Astronomy & Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow, was interviewed by Chicago CBS 2 (view the segment here) in the Adler’s Solar System gallery (see photo, left). Aaron also gave two radio interviews: 101 WKQX in the morning of February 23, and 1690 am WVON that evening. View Aaron’s Facebook Live video, courtesy of Adler Planetarium:


 

CIERA Hosts Astronomy Day for Middle School Teachers

On February 23, CIERA hosted a day of professional development for middle school science and astronomy teachers. Twelve teachers from Evanston, Skokie, and Libertyville participated. CIERA Data Science Scholar Ben Nelson joined Physics & Astronomy graduate students Cody Dirks, Katie Breivik, Zach Hafen, and Mike Zevin in stopping by throughout the day to talk about their research and answer the teachers’ questions.

Evanston Township High School Astronomy teachers Andy Miner and Gion Matthias Schelbert attended, sharing many useful resources. The response from the teachers was fantastic. One said, “This is the kind of collaboration that is most productive. One that is more organic. Letting teachers talk and share ideas and resources about teaching is the purest form of professional development I can think of. The discussions and meeting people was outstanding.”


 

January 2017

 

 

News from CIERA Professor Farhad Yusef-Zadeh on Star, Planet Formation in Milky Way

Ashley Yeager from ScienceNews.org writes, “Blobs of gas near the Milky Way’s center may be just the right mass to harbor young stars and possibly planets, too. Any such budding stellar systems would face an uphill battle, developing only about two light-years from the galaxy’s central supermassive black hole with its intense gravity and ultraviolet radiation. But it’s not impossible for the small stars to survive in the hostile place, a new study suggests.

‘Nature is very clever. It finds ways to work in extreme environments,’ says Farhad Yusef-Zadeh, an astrophysicist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.”

Continue to the full Science News article.
Go to the paper at arXiv.org.
Read more about Prof. Yusef-Zadeh’s research.

Image: Clouds of gas (white box), observed with Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), appear to have the right mass to be young stars, even though they aren’t far from the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way (green dot). Courtesy of F. Yusef-Zadeh/Northwestern University.


 

Graduate Student Katie Breivik Wins Chambliss Honorable Mention for Research Poster at AAS

At the 229th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), graduate student Katie Breivik was awarded a Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Student Award, Honorable Mention. This award is given to recognize exemplary research by students who present posters at the meetings of the AAS. 62 graduate students entered this meeting’s competition and there were nearly 200 judges for both graduate and undergraduate posters.

Katie studies the formation of pairs of black holes with computer simulations. Her poster was titled, “Distinguishing Between Formation Channels for Binary Black Holes with LISA.” The image above shows Katie at the NASA Hyperwall at the AAS meeting.

Congratulations, Katie!

To view all the winners, see the AAS Press Release about the Chambliss Awards.


 

Supernova News from CIERA Professor Raffaella Margutti

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has issued a press release, NuSTAR Finds New Clues to 'Chameleon Supernova', which begins:

"We're made of star stuff," astronomer Carl Sagan famously said. Nuclear reactions that happened in ancient stars generated much of the material that makes up our bodies, our planet and our solar system. When stars explode in violent deaths called supernovae, those newly formed elements escape and spread out in the universe.

One supernova in particular is challenging astronomers' models of how exploding stars distribute their elements. The supernova SN 2014C dramatically changed in appearance over the course of a year, apparently because it had thrown off a lot of material late in its life. This doesn't fit into any recognized category of how a stellar explosion should happen. To explain it, scientists must reconsider established ideas about how massive stars live out their lives before exploding.

"This 'chameleon supernova' may represent a new mechanism of how massive stars deliver elements created in their cores to the rest of the universe," said Raffaella Margutti, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Margutti led a study about supernova SN 2014C published this week in The Astrophysical Journal.

Please continue to the full NASA JPL Feature.
Visit the AAS Nova feature, “A Challenge to Our View of How Stars Die.”
Read more about Prof. Margutti’s Research.


 

CIERA REU Students Present at 229th Meeting of the AAS

This January, nine students from CIERA’s summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program presented posters on their research projects at the 229th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Grapevine, Texas. Directed by NSF Astronomy & Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow Aaron Geller, the REU program focuses on connections between astrophysics and other disciplines within CIERA. Students learn computer programming, develop skills in science communication, take field trips, and benefit from career panels in addition to collaborating with faculty on research projects.

The winter meeting of the AAS is the largest gathering of American astronomers each year and includes many opportunities for networking. The students presented the following posters:


Joseph Arroyo (adviser: Eric Dahl)
Simulating Xenon Bubble Chambers for Dark Matter Detection
Valerie Becker (adviser: Dave Meyer)
HST STIS Observations of Interstellar Chlorine
Michael Bueno (adviser: Shane Larson)
Multi-Messenger Astronomy: White Dwarf Binaries, LISA and GAIA
Joshua Fuhrman (adviser: Fred Rasio)
Exploring Sources of Gravitational Waves From Star Cluster Dynamics
Beverley Lowell (adviser: André de Gouvêa)
Understanding the Earth’s Composition through Neutrino Oscillations
Lupe MacIntosh (adviser: Mel Ulmer)
An Automated Census Of Variable X-Ray Objects in the Direction of Clusters of Galaxies
Noah Rivera (adviser: Michael Schmitt)
Exoplanet Transit Analysis of KIC 8462852
Abraham Teklu (adviser: Alvin Bayliss)
How Mathematics Describes Life
Yuqi Yun (adviser: Vicky Kalogera)
A Fast Method to Predict Distributions of Binary Black Hole Masses with Gaussian Process Regression

Learn more about CIERA’s NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. Visit the web sites of the 2016 cohort of CIERA REU students to learn more about their work.


 

CIERA Postdoctoral Alum Laura Fissel Presents Plenary Talk at AAS229

Laura Fissel, a CIERA postdoctoral fellow (2013-2016) and current Jansky fellow at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory-Charlottesville, was invited to give a plenary talk at the 229th (winter) meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). The AAS holds meetings semiannually, and the winter meetings, called the “Super Bowl of astronomy” are the largest gathering of American astronomers each year. Laura joined a select group of researchers giving plenary talks, which are those presented to every attendee at once with no concurrent events; they represent important topics of conversation throughout the meeting.

Laura works with the BLAST (the Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope) project, a telescope that measures electromagnetic radiation in star-forming clouds of dust and gas. Laura’s talk was titled, “Astronomy from the Upper Stratosphere: Key Discoveries and New Opportunities from High Altitude Scientific Balloons” and her description of the talk states, “Stratospheric balloons offer a near-space astronomy platform for a small fraction of the cost of an equivalent satellite. These balloons can lift scientific payloads of up to 6,000 lbs as high as 40 km above the Earth.”

Learn more about Laura’s work.


 

Professor Mel Ulmer Discusses Geoengineering at AAS229

Mel Ulmer was invited to join a special session of the 229th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) this January, chaired by James Lowenthal of Smith College. The panel discussion, which was organized by the AAS Sustainability Committee, focused on the merits and risks of modifying the atmosphere to combat climate change.

The panel was titled “Geoengineering the Atmosphere to Fight Climate Change: Should Astronomers Worry about It?” and its program description states, “Geo-engineering is a set of proposed solutions to global climate change that involve intentionally modifying the Earth’s atmosphere and/or surface. Examples: injecting aerosols, water droplets, or other reflectors into or above the atmosphere to reduce incoming sunlight. Will it work? What if it doesn’t? How much will it cost? What are possible side effects? Is it ethical?”

Read the Yahoo! News article about the panel discussion.
Learn more about the AAS Sustainability Committee.


 

Four New Postdoctoral Researchers Join CIERA

We are excited to introduce CIERA's new Postdoctoral Research Fellows. They bring a wide-range of expertise that promises to advance CIERA's cutting-edge research programs.

Deanne Coppejans
Deanne joined CIERA in November 2016 as a Postdoctoral Associate working with Assistant Professor Raffaella Margutti on multi-wavelength observations of supernovae and other transients. She will lead the radio observations for these studies. Deanne completed her PhD at Radboud University Nijmegen (the Netherlands) on multi-wavelength accretion studies of binary stars, specifically Cataclysmic Variables.

Kit Lee
Kit joined CIERA in mid-August 2016 as a Postdoctoral Associate, working with Professor Yoram Lithwick’s group. Kit’s expertise is on problems in astrophysical fluid dynamics, especially related to galactic and protoplanetary disks. Previously, Kit was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Academia Sinica, Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics in Taiwan.

Pablo Marchant
Pablo will arrive this winter from the University of Bonn, where he's now a graduate student conducting research on the evolution of single and binary massive stars. He brings expertise in stellar physics and MESA simulations, and he'll be working with Profs. Vicky Kalogera and Ron Taam on stellar evolution and binary stellar modeling. Pablo originally comes from Chile.

Adam Miller
Adam Miller joined CIERA in October 2016. Adam is the director of program development and communicationsfor theLargeSynoptic SurveyTelescope Corporation Data Science Fellowship Program, a series of workshops to teachdata science principles to astronomy graduate students. The first workshop was successfully held at Northwestern this past August. Adam's research focuses on the use of automated classification tools, such as machine learning, to classify explosions and stellar variables. Adam was previously a Hubble Fellow at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.



 

December 2016

 

 

Graduate Student Zachary Hafen Wins Award in the 2016 Northwestern Scientific Images Contest

Northwestern’s Science in Society holds an annual competition to find the most beautiful scientific images from researchers all over campus. Entries to this sixth year of the contest came from medicine, chemistry, engineering, and nanotechnology, among others.

Physics & Astronomy graduate student Zachary Hafen used computer modelling to create an image of a single galaxy evolving over time. His image, One Galaxy, Multiple Perspectives, won an Honorable Mention in this year's contest.

Visit HELIX Magazine, the online publication from Science in Society, to view a gallery of the winning images from 2016 and to read about One Galaxy, Multiple Perspectives.


Watch the interview of Science in Society’s Sara Grady on WTTW Chicago Tonight.
Visit the display of winning images in December at the Evanston Public Library.
View the artwork created by Evanston Township High School students, based on the scientific images.


 

Year-in-Review Honors for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration

In December, several prestigious honors were announced for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, the team of scientists and engineers involved in the gravitational-wave discovery announced earlier this year. CIERA’s director, Vicky Kalogera, led the astrophysical interpretation of the discovery for the LIGO collaboration. Over the years, her group pioneered ways of making detection source rate predictions and developed methods for extracting information from gravitational-wave signals from binaries of spinning compact objects.

Foreign Policy Magazine Top 100 Global Thinkers (see image top left)
Across nine categories, Foreign Policy Magazine announced their top 100 global thinkers for 2016. The LIGO Scientific Collaboration is honored among “the chroniclers,” a group of leaders that includes filmmakers, novelists, and artists. The group is noted for producing “relevant, accessible, and urgent” work.
Read the citation for LIGO.
View all the Leading Global Thinkers honorees.

Physics World 2016 Breakthrough of the Year (see image right)
Physics World, the member magazine of the Institute of Physics, released their top 10 breakthroughs for 2016, naming the LIGO Scientific Collaboration’s gravitational wave discovery as Breakthrough of the Year. Nine runner-up achievements were also identified by the panel of Physics World editors and reporters. Criteria for selection is based on importance of research, advancement of knowledge, connecting theory and experiment, and general interest to all physicists.
Read the full announcement from Physics World.

Science News Top Science Story of 2016 (see image left)
Science News magazine named their top ten science stories of 2016, with the first direct detection of gravitational waves at the #1 spot. The ten selections are diverse and include the Zika virus, polar ice cap melting, and artificial intelligence, among other fascinating picks.
See the Science News Top 10 Stories of 2016.
Read the full article about the LIGO discovery.




Top APS Physics Highlight of the Year (see image right)
LIGO’s discovery of gravitational waves topped the APS Physics highlights of the year. The editors named it their favorite story. Physics provides daily online-only news and commentary about a selection of papers from the APS (American Physical Society) journal collection.
View the Physics Highlights of 2016.

Science Magazine’s 2016 Breakthrough of the Year (see image left)
Ripples in space time are Science’s Breakthrough of the Year, and second most popular choice among online visitors for story of the year. Science Magazine is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s oldest and largest general science organization. Its mission, among other goals, is to communicate the value of science to the public.
View the Science Breakthrough of the Year Video.
Read the full article on Science’s 2016 Breakthrough.


Congratulations Northwestern LIGO team!


 

Prospect High School Hosts Panel of Women Astrophysicists from Northwestern

On December 8th, Prospect High School’s Women in STEM Club sponsored an evening with astrophysicists from Northwestern University. Physics & astronomy graduate students Katie Breivik, Eve Chase, and Renee Manzagol joined CIERA postdoctoral associate Deanne Coppejans to speak with students about their experiences in the field. About 30 attendees turned out for the event, a big draw for the club.

The club is dedicated to promoting awareness of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and is sponsored by Prospect High School physics teacher, Katie Page. In addition to hosting panels like this one, the club offers resources like internship and scholarship opportunities for girls interested in STEM fields.


 

Gravitational Waves Detection Featured in Holiday Greeting to Northwestern Alumni

This year, Northwestern President Schapiro and Mimi Schapiro sent a year-in-review video to alumni and others on behalf of Northwestern and the Northwestern Alumni Association. CIERA Director Vicky Kalogera is featured as part of the historic first detection of gravitational waves, which was announced in February of 2016. Professor Kalogera joins mentions of other major 2016 Northwestern accomplishments in the “charted new paths” section of the video.

Enjoy the video at: http://alumni.northwestern.edu/holiday.


 

Postdocs & Graduate Students Present at Annual CIERA Research Jamboree

For the fourth year in December, CIERA faculty, postdocs, graduate students and guests gathered before the annual CIERA holiday party to hear short presentations on the wide array of research conducted here by Postdoctoral Fellows and Graduate Students. The Research Jamboree provides an opportunity to hear about colleagues’ latest interests, projects, and results in a quick-paced format that allows time for questions as well as discussions during breaks. This year’s 21 talks included research such as modeling habitability criteria of Earth-like planets, determining planet mass by analyzing spiral waves, and making observations with a balloon-borne telescope in Antarctica.


 

Executive Director of LIGO Laboratory Presents CIERA Fall Interdisciplinary Colloquium

On December 1st and 2nd, Dave Reitze, the Executive Director of LIGO Laboratory at Caltech, visited Northwestern for a series of group meetings, a tour of the Laboratory for Atomic and Photonic Technology, and to present CIERA’s Fall Interdisciplinary Colloquium on the topic of gravitational waves detected by LIGO.

Dr. Reitze, Northwestern alumnus class of 1983, met with LIGO Scientific Collaboration members Vicky Kalogera, Shane Larson, Selim Shahriar and several postdocs and students at Northwestern who contributed to the discovery (some of whom are pictured, left). His talk, titled, “Colliding Black Holes & Convulsions in Space-time: The First Observations of Gravitational Waves by LIGO,” included a description of LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory and the “powerful and unique probes of the universe” that LIGO captures. To a group of about 150 people, he discussed LIGO’s history, but mostly focused on the interferometers themselves, the LIGO detections, and their astrophysical implications.

Read the Office for Research story, LIGO Executive Director and Northwestern Alumnus Talks Black Holes, Future of Exploration.

Click pictures to view larger images.
Image credit: Story anchor & lab images, Roger Anderson, Northwestern Office for Research

CIERA Fall 2016 Interdisciplinary Colloquium in Tech L211 Dave Reitze speaks with CIERA Board of Visitors member, Dianne Blanco Dave Reitze & Selim Shahriar in the Lab for Atomic and Photonic Technology With some of Prof. Shahriar’s group members

 

November 2016

 

 

Audio Series on Northwestern Couples Features Vicky Kalogera and Fred Rasio

CIERA Director Vicky Kalogera and her spouse, Fred Rasio, are both faculty in Northwestern’s Physics & Astronomy Department. They recently participated in an audio series that features couples across many disciplines at Northwestern: law, medicine, film, athletics and more. Tune in to learn more about Fred and Vicky.

Visit Northwestern Now for photos of Vicky & Fred, a transcript of their interview, and links to more podcasts featuring Northwestern couples.


 

Graduate Student Matthew Rickert Wins Reber Fellowship

Graduate student Matthew Rickert (advisor: Farhad Yusef-Zadeh) has won a Reber Fellowship from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). From the organization’s web site: “The Grote Reber Doctoral Fellowship Program gives Ph.D. students an opportunity to conduct research in radio astronomy, radio instrumentation, or computational techniques at one of the NRAO sites under the supervision of an NRAO staff astronomer or engineer. The program is jointly sponsored by NRAO and the students' home universities. To be eligible, the student must be engaged in a well-advanced thesis project and have the support of both their prospective NRAO advisor and their academic department.”

In Socorro, New Mexico, Matthew is using the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (pictured right) to survey our galaxy for young stellar objects. Matthew notes that he “has already detected six times more water masers and two times more methanol masers than the next best surveys that used single-dish telescopes with poorer resolution.” (Maser = laser at mm-cm wavelengths.)

Congratulations, Matthew!

Learn more about the Grote Reber Doctoral Fellowship Program and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.


 

CIERA’s Mel Ulmer Leading Audacious Project to Unfurl World’s Largest Space Telescope

Roger Anderson for Northwestern Research News writes: Figuring out how to fit a 16-meter mirror into a four-meter hole was the easy part.

Two years before a NASA-led collaboration is set to launch the James Webb Space Telescope — with a collecting mirror 6.5 meters in diameter — Mel Ulmer, physics and astronomy, is researching the feasibility of putting that mirror into space.

Reflecting telescopes rely on concave mirrors to collect and focus light in a manner that has produced brilliant images, including those from the Hubble, which launched in 1990 with a 2.4-meter mirror.

“A major limitation to increasing the size of these telescopes is that the rockets used to launch them can only carry a solid monolithic mirror up to about four meters in diameter,” says Ulmer, a Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA) faculty member. “That means we are left to design a system that’s deployable, meaning it can change shape once it reaches space.”

Continue to Northwestern Research for the full article.


 

CIERA REU Students Present at PhysCon

Valerie Becker and Eryn Cangi, students from CIERA’s Research Experience for Undergraduates Program, each presented research at this year’s Quadrennial Physics Congress (PhysCon). From the web site, “PhysCon brings together physics students, alumni, and faculty members for three days of frontier physics, poster sessions, interactive professional development workshops, and networking. It is the largest gathering of undergraduate physics students in the world!”

Valerie presented “HST STIS Observations of Interstellar Chlorine,” which she developed at the CIERA REU program this past summer with advisor Prof. Dave Meyer. Eryn presented "Delineating the Migrating Solar and Lunar Semidiurnal Atmospheric Tides in the General Circulation Models," a poster she created at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder. Eryn’s work at CIERA took place in 2015 with Prof. Daniel Abrams.

Though Eryn’s REU cohort at Northwestern was 2015 and Valerie’s 2016, they were able to connect at PhysCon, a meeting that highlights networking. Eryn says, “REUs help students build a network early in their careers. It was great to experience it in action and I am glad Valerie had it in mind to look for me on the schedule.” Valerie agreed: “I was excited to learn how the [CIERA REU] experience affected her career, if we had similar (wonderful) experiences in our different years, and if there was any advice she wanted to tell me going forward.”

Learn more about their work! Visit the REU web sites of Valerie Becker and Eryn Cangi.
Check out the CIERA Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program.
Learn about PhysCon.


 

Graduate Student Katie Breivik’s Paper Featured on AAS Nova

Graduate student Katie Breivik’s work has been featured on the site AASNova.org, which highlights some of the most interesting recent results being published in the journals of the American Astronomical Society. Katie is a theoretical astrophysicist who studies the formation of pairs of black holes with computer simulations. Her work exhibits the capabilities of a space-based detector called LISA, the "Laser Interferometer Space Antenna" that will be jointly flown by NASA and the European Space Agency near the end of the next decade.

Read the feature article, “Using LISA to Learn How Pairs of Black Holes Formed” on AAS Nova.
Check out Breivik’s paper, “Distinguishing Between Formation Channels for Binary Black Holes with LISA.”


 

Rapid Fire Research Kicks Off

On October 26, graduate student Mike Zevin hosted the inaugural Rapid Fire Research event where 10 students had the opportunity to practice the art of presenting research. The annual event showcases graduate and undergraduate physics and astronomy student research at Northwestern with the purpose of developing the skills necessary to “communicate research in a clear, concise fashion."

Presentations were scored by a panel of faculty and post-doctoral fellows based on research presentation and effectiveness of communications. The winners receive cash prizes for the first place and runner-up graduate student and the first place and runner-up undergraduate student.

The graduate student winner was Zach Hafen and runner-up Katie Breivik. The undergraduate winner was Trent Cwiok and runner-up Benjamin Moy. Congratulations to everyone who presented!

Learn more about Rapid Fire Research.


 

October 2016

 

 

CIERA REU Student Beverly Lowell Presents Research at Symposium

CIERA REU program participant and Illinois Institute of Technology undergraduate student Beverly Lowell presented at the National Science Foundation’s Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) Symposium in Washington, DC last week. She was chosen to present her research from the CIERA REU program this past summer on the topic “Understanding the Earth's Composition through Neutrino Oscillations.” Lowell was advised on the project by Prof. André de Gouvêa, Department of Physics and Astronomy. CIERA Director Vicky Kalogera congratulated Lowell and noted how great it is when the CIERA REU program can “enable students to have exactly this kind of experience!”

Learn more about the CIERA REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) program.
View the CUR symposium event program.


 

CIERA’s Board of Visitors Meets with Top University Officials

CIERA has formed a diverse, external group of advisors to serve as its Board of Visitors. Members joined the group because they love science broadly, astronomy in particular, and are eager to see astronomy at Northwestern continue to thrive and expand. In order to strategize, advise, and assist with CIERA’s mission and future growth, the Board met on October 21 for its inaugural meeting.

During their meeting the Board heard from Provost Dan Linzer (pictured with Board members, left), Vice President for Research Jay Walsh, and Executive Director of Development for Schools and Programs, WE WILL Campaign, David Nacol. The Board also got to meet the new astronomy faculty member, Raffaella Margutti, and hear about the research conducted by some of CIERA’s postdoctoral fellows: Fabio Antonini, Laura Sampson, Adam Miller, and Ben Nelson.

Learn more about CIERA’s Board of Visitors and CIERA in WE WILL, the campaign for Northwestern.


 

Dearborn Observatory Welcomes 1,500 During Architecture Festival

On October 15 & 16, the Dearborn Observatory hosted 1,500 visitors as part of the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House Chicago (OHC) event. Both days had larger attendance than last year’s event: 800 people visited the Dearborn on Saturday and 700 people came on Sunday this year. Two other sites on Northwestern’s Evanston campus were featured, among over two hundred sites total in the greater Chicago area.

Huge thanks to astronomers Mike Smutko, Cody Dirks, Moriah Lavey, Alex Gurvich, and Kyle Kremer for dedicating some of their weekend to chat with 1,500 visitors!

Learn more about the three Northwestern buildings featured at OHC in the Northwestern News story.

Plan a visit to Dearborn Observatory or find out about the Chicago Architecture Foundation.


 

Gravity Spy: The New Gravitational-Wave Project Using Citizen Science

LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, is the most sensitive and complex gravitational experiment ever created. When researchers look at the information LIGO receives from the Universe, they also confront the instrumental and environmental noise the observatory picks up. Gravity Spy lets the lay public act as citizen scientists to help categorize noise, or glitches, in the massive amounts of data coming from the detectors here on Earth that first heard gravitational waves.

As the Gravity Spy team explains, “Humans still are far better than computers at recognizing subtle differences across images and when an image simply does not fit within a known category. Please help us identify all of the glitch morphologies and open up an even bigger window into the gravitational wave universe!”

The Gravity Spy team is made up of LIGO researchers within CIERA, LIGO researchers at Cal State Fullerton, machine learning researchers at Northwestern University, crowd-sourced science researchers at Syracuse University, and Zooniverse web developers. Gravity Spy is funded by the NSF INSPIRE 1547880 grant.

Learn more at gravityspy.org.
Read the Daily Zooniverse Announcement.
Read Citizen Scientists Join Search for Gravitational Waves on Symmetry.
Read Researchers Turn to “Citizen Scientists” for Help Identifying Gravitational Waves from the University of Alabama, Huntsville.
Read about Gravity Spy in Syracuse University's The Daily Orange.
Read Physics Student a 'Gravity Spy' from California State University, Fullerton.
Read LIGO Magazine article Written by graduate student, Michael Zevin
Read Advancing the Search for Gravitational Waves with Next-Generation Citizen Science on CQG+.


 

Graduate Student Kyle Kremer Recognized for Exceptional Work at NSF Event

Graduate student Kyle Kremer represented the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the Chicago-area National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship event last week, and was one of five NSF fellows recognized for exceptional work over the past year. In particular, Kyle's ongoing efforts to develop interdisciplinary collaboration between music and science were recognized for characterizing the ideals of NSF's outreach and broader impacts initiative. At the event, Kyle spoke briefly to current and former Chicago-area NSF fellows about some of his current projects, including his multimedia show, Solar System Symphony, which was premiered last spring as a partnership between CIERA and NU's Bienen School of Music.




 

Undergraduate Rebecca Diesing Honored with Oliver Marcy Scholarship

Each year Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences recognizes undergraduates for outstanding academic achievement. For her work in the natural sciences and mathematics, Physics & Astronomy senior Rebecca Diesing was selected as one of three Oliver Marcy Scholars. Oliver Marcy was a professor of natural science at Northwestern from 1862 to 1899 and acting University president for six years. Rebecca’s research advisor is Professor Farhad Yusef-Zadeh.

Earlier in Rebecca’s undergraduate career, she experienced zero gravity as part of Northwestern’s Microgravity Team when she flew aboard NASA’s legendary “Vomit Comet.” Read the Weinberg article.


 

September 2016

 

 

Carl Rodriguez Awarded MIT Pappalardo Postdoctoral Fellowship in Physics

Carl Rodriguez has graduated and begun a postdoctoral position at MIT. Carl studies the formation, dynamics, and gravitational-wave implications of black holes from dense star clusters. Here at Northwestern, he worked with Professor Fred Rasio on modeling globular clusters and with Professor Vicky Kalogera on gravitational-wave parameter estimation. His dissertation, titled “Modeling Dense Star Clusters and Their Implications for Advanced LIGO,” focused on the interface between the two subjects.

Carl contributed significantly to CIERA’s work in public outreach and STEM education while at Northwestern. He gave numerous public lectures over the years, served as a mentor, and taught high school students as a GK12 Fellow in the Reach for the Stars program.

View movies by Carl Rodriguez on his web site: BH Dynamics
View Carl’s TEDx Northwestern talk: Listening to Einstein’s Final Symphony

Congratulations Carl!


 

CIERA’s Laura Sampson Wins L'Oréal USA 2016 For Women in Science Fellowship

CIERA postdoctoral fellow Laura Sampson is among five female scientists honored with the 2016 For Women in Science Fellowship from L'Oréal USA. The program recognizes exemplary female scientists for their contributions in STEM and their commitment to serving as role models for younger generations. As part of the award, Dr. Sampson will receive $60,000 to advance her postdoctoral research. Along with the other recipients, she will visit the White House, the National Academy of Sciences, a New Jersey public school, and L'Oréal Headquarters.


Read the full announcement from L'Oréal USA.
Read the Northwestern News announcement.
Read the Spotlight on Laura from TGS.
Read about Laura's achievement in the ChicagoInno.
Meet all of the 2016 Fellows.



All photos, credit: L’Oréal

 

CIERA Graduate Students Demonstrate Their Expertise in Seven Minutes or Less

On September 13, 2016, CIERA graduate students Katie Breivik and Sam Hadden showcased their skills in public speaking at an event entitled “Seven Minutes of Science.”

Seven Minutes of Science is organized by the Ready Set Go (RSG) program—which was founded at Northwestern in 2012 by our own Michelle Paulsen, and Alex Adler. The program was created to increase awareness for the need of excellent science communicators, and to coach graduate and post doc researchers to improve their presentation skills. Seven Minutes of Science is the culmination of weeks of practice and coaching, where the RSG students present on their academic research to an audience of diverse backgrounds within a seven-minute time frame.

This year there were twelve speakers present, discussing their research in a broad range of scientific topics—from designing shared driverless cars, to the use of microbes to solve problems of energy and pollution. Sam and Katie represented CIERA by speaking on their astrophysical investigations.

Sam’s presentation was titled What are Other Worlds Like?, and discussed NASA’s Kepler mission: dedicated to finding and characterizing exoplanets. He is working to measure the masses of the thousands of new planets that have been discovered by Kepler, and to distinguish potential similarities and differences between our solar system and others.

Katie’s talk was called Whispers from the Stellar Graveyard. She spoke of her investigations of star evolution, and how we can study the lifecycle of a star by examining their deaths. The black holes that are created when a star ‘dies’ can now be further researched due to the tracking of their gravity, and the gravitational waves they make when they interact with one another.

A connected event also took place on September 12 at Northwestern’s Chicago campus, where seven other researchers presented.

Click pictures to view larger images.

 

Dearborn Observatory and CIERA Contribute to NU STEM & Sports Outreach Event

Every year, Northwestern University Athletics organizes an NU STEM & Sports Day: as part of Saturday pre-game activities, they invite Scouts and their families to campus to sample the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) research that Northwestern pursues.

At this year's event, on September 12th, Northwestern astronomers contributed by hosting about 25 Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, their parents and brothers & sisters at Dearborn Observatory. Graduate student Cody Dirks gave everyone the opportunity to view the Sun through two different telescopes (with solar filters!). Not only were we lucky that the weather cleared just in time for the event, but there was also a solar storm visible. Then, graduate student Kyle Kremer gave the group a short introduction to the solar system, showed the students a demonstration on the vacuum of space, and answered questions from all attendees -- from the young scouts to the parents who came with them.

Thanks to Kyle & Cody for their work in hosting all of these students, and to Dearborn Observatory!

Click pictures to view larger images.

 

CIERA’s Fellows at the Frontiers 2016: Astronomy Research on the Cutting-edge

Forty invited postdoctoral fellows gathered from around the U.S. and Canada from August 31 – September 2 for CIERA’s Fellows at the Frontiers 2016 (FF16). A wide range of research topics was covered during the 3-day conference at Norris University Center, as each scientist came to the podium to give a 20-minute talk on their area of expertise. The talks were organized in groups of four per session, in a refreshing random sequence to prevent “topic fatigue.” Session breaks were provided to allow this new generation of researchers to network with members of the audience (primarily graduate students, faculty, and science enthusiasts from the community) as well as with each other. Please view the FF16 Scientific Program online to find talk titles and abstracts.

The fellows and attendees enjoyed an opening night reception and lunch at the new Ryan Center for the Musical Arts. Several fellows stayed through the holiday weekend for the Chicago Jazz Festival. On the final day of the conference, a special lunch was held with American Astronomical Society president Christine Jones Forman. Dr. Jones Forman invited an informal discussion on “anything but science,” which led to a dialog on careers, among many topics. Dr. Jones Forman made a point of encouraging the fellows to write to their congressional representatives to inform them of their work and to thank them for crucial federal support.

FF16 is a sequel to the 2011 CIERA inaugural conference entitled “The Future of Astronomy — Fellows at the Frontiers of Science.” At future occurrences of this event, we hope to see several of the FF16 speakers return to Evanston!

FF16 Scientific
Organizing Committee
Event Support,
Graduate Students
Event Support,
Staff Members
Fred Rasio (chair)
Sourav Chatterjee
Claude-André Faucher-Giguère
Laura Fissel
Vicky Kalogera
Alex Richings
Laura Sampson
Peter Ashton
Katie Breivik
Adam Dempsey
Fani Dosopoulou
Sam Hadden
Zach Hafen
Michael Katz
Niharika Sravan
Mike Zevin
Peter Anglada
John Everett
Gretchen Oehlschlager
Michelle Paulsen
Lisa Raymond
Melodie Swanson

CIERA’s Fellows at the Frontiers 2016 conference was made possible by the National Science Foundation, grant number 1518974, as well as CIERA’s generous circle of donors. Learn about giving to the CIERA Circle.

SOC Chair Fred Rasio & AAS President Christine Jones Forman Views of Lake Michigan from the Ryan Center CIERA’s Laura Sampson on Gravitational Waves Sarah Ballard on Exoplanets
Story Cover Photo Credit: Bruce Powell
 

Raffaella Margutti Joins CIERA to Investigate the Biggest Explosions in Our Universe

As part of a 5-year faculty expansion initiative in the Physics & Astronomy Department, Dr. Raffaella Margutti, an expert on supernovae, has joined Northwestern as an assistant professor. Dr. Margutti was previously a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard’s Institute for Theory and Computation.

At CIERA, Dr. Margutti’s group will work with broad-band observations (from X-rays to radio) and modelling of astronomical transients. On Dr. Margutti's web site, she describes supernovae and gamma-ray bursts as the biggest explosions in our Universe. She states that both phenomena signal the catastrophic death of stars, leading to the birth of exotic compact objects like neutron stars and black holes. Investigating the high-energy properties of these explosions, she is working to understand the physical processes that cause such a dramatic energy release in a matter of seconds. Alongside her impressive research, “open science” is a special area of interest for Dr. Margutti. She works on the Open Supernova Catalog, a centralized, open repository for supernova data. (Read about open science on the Winnower.)

A recent article for Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences states, “…as one of the nation’s very few universities with both a LIGO group and a team that studies ‘transient astronomy’, Northwestern is well positioned to continue its run as a national leader, especially as the National Science Foundation has identified multi-messenger astronomy and gravitational waves as one of the agency’s top priorities.” Read the full article: Upward Trajectory.

Dr. Margutti will be joined at CIERA by Postdoctoral Associate Deanne Coppejans in November.


Past News and Announcements