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Two REU students win American Astronomical Society Chambliss Awards

Sebastian Banaszak and Vishnu Gade have both been awarded Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Student Awards by the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Banaszak and Gade participated in the 2023 CIERA Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program and presented their research at the 243rd AAS meeting in New Orleans in January 2024. The Chambliss award recognizes exemplary research by students who present posters at meetings of the AAS.

Sebastian Banaszak, a senior at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, won for his project ‘Quasars with Periodic Variability: Bayesian Search for Supermassive Black Holes’.  “My advisor, [CIERA-Adler Postdoctoral Fellow] Caitlin Witt, has been an excellent research mentor,” said Banaszak. “She has a sea of knowledge with respect to multi-messenger astronomy, and she helped me strike the perfect balance of working as a team to brainstorm/execute new prospects and working independently to let my curiosity lead me.”

On his future plans, Banaszak shared, “This is just the beginning for me! I’ve only been fully committed to astronomy for a year and this marks a great milestone in my early career, but I expect to keep pursuing what I love! I will take a gap year and will then be attending graduate school to continue building my career and pursuing my passion.”


Vishnu Gade, a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, won the Chambliss Award for his project ‘Efficiently Exploring Rare Binaries with Adaptive Importance Sampling’. Gade’s work involves implementing an adaptive importance sampling algorithm into the POSYDON binary stellar population synthesis code developed at CIERA to improve sampling of rare binary stellar systems.

“AAS was an invaluable experience that reignited my passion for research, revealed exciting career possibilities, and opened my eyes to countless new research areas to explore”, said Gade. “The Chambliss Award is a truly meaningful token of recognition for my work, and it motivates me to continue pursuing excellence in my scientific journey. I am extremely thankful to CIERA, my mentors Dr. Vishal Baibhav and Dr. Vicky Kalogera, and the REU Directors Dr. Aaron Geller and Dr. Emily Leiner for everything that made this possible.”

CIERA’s REU program provides undergraduate students with the opportunity to pursue an astrophysics-based interdisciplinary research project in collaboration with Northwestern University faculty. Speaking to his time as a CIERA REU student Banaszak explained, “My experience at Northwestern has been amazing for me. The research was incredible and I felt cared for—the countless presentations and coding workshops and seminars were perfect stepping stones for a young researcher like me. Not to mention the excellent people I met and wonderful experiences I shared.”

Congratulations Vishnu and Sebastian!
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