On May 8, The Graduate School (TGS) of Northwestern University announced that Monica Gallegos-Garcia was one of only seven people awarded the Presidential Fellowship for 2023. Funded by the President of the University and awarded by TGS, this award is Northwestern’s most prestigious fellowship. The Presidential Fellowship celebrates students who promise to combine outstanding intellectual or creative ability with the capacity to play an important leadership role, and includes stipend, tuition, research, and travel funds.
“This is a huge honor for me,” says Gallegos-Garcia. “I’ve known since high school that I wanted to study astronomy but I could have never imagined something like this. I’m really proud of myself and incredibly grateful for all the mentors I’ve had over the years. Their support has really allowed me to thrive in ways I couldn’t have on my own. I’m really excited to meet and build relationships with the other Fellows!”
Monica’s work is at the center of a new field in astronomy known as gravitational-wave astrophysics. Gravitational waves are created by the coalescence and merger between a pair of black holes. Together with gravitational-wave discoveries and advances in modeling stars, Monica is discovering how these merging black-hole pairs are assembled in nature. She co-develops and uses a state-of-the-art stellar simulation code to model the evolution of massive stars that explode and form black holes. She studies how a black hole in an orbit with a massive star can lead to merging black-hole pairs. Her work has challenged previously accepted notions about the origin of black-hole mergers, changing how different assembly scenarios are investigated and explored. Monica aims to piece together the evolutionary histories of these mergers in a global study accounting for black-hole mergers across the entire universe and all time. Together with upcoming gravitational-waves discoveries, her work will help paint the most accurate picture of black-hole mergers and their origins throughout the universe.
Monica holds a BS in Astrophysics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she studied stars torn apart by supermassive black holes, known as tidal disruption events, and interactions of winds emanating from stars in densely clustered environments. While at Northwestern she was awarded a Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship in support of her PhD work and has also been elected to the Edward A. Bouchet Honor Society, recognizing both her excellence in research and societal contributions.
Monica Gallegos-Garcia is an astronomy PhD candidate in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the Weinberg College of Arts and Science. She is also a graduate student in the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA) at Northwestern and advised by Vicky Kalogera.