Observational Astronomy and
Experimental Physics Research

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center: Summer 2018

Given the current capabilities of exoplanet detection methods, M dwarf stars are excellent candidates to search for Earth-sized, potentially habitable planets. To evaluate the photochemistry of a planetary atmosphere and therefore the planet’s potential habitability, it is essential to characterize the UV spectral energy distribution of the planet’s host star because important atmospheric molecules have highly wavelength dependent absorption cross sections. M dwarfs in particular present challenges as highly active stars with unique spectra that can produce key biosignatures abiotically.

This summer, I worked with Dr. Allison Youngblood and Dr. Aki Roberge to identify a broadly applicable method of estimating the UV emission of an M dwarf, without direct UV data, by identifying a relationship between non-simultaneous optical and UV observations of a sample of 107 M dwarfs. Prioritizing methods of analysis that have been well-parameterized in past research, we used observations from ground-based telescopes to calculate Hydrogen alpha equivalent widths and the Mount Wilson S and R’HK indexes from CaII HK as our optical wavelength range indicators for each target star. Archival Hubble Space Telescope data was used to find the flux of each UV line for a certain target, which was then transformed into stellar luminosity and surface flux. Our results show a correlation between the observed UV fluxes and their corresponding H alpha equivalent widths and CaII HK S and R’HK indexes. This allows for efficient and accurate estimation of the UV emission from M dwarfs when UV data is not available, supporting the development of photochemical models of exoplanet atmospheres.

To view the poster I presented for judging at the summer intern poster symposium, click here.

Yale University Wright Lab: Summer 2017

Having always been interested in neutrinos, I joined Professor Reina Maruyama's lab group as part of the collaboration working on the Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Evemts (CUORE). CUORE is a ton-scale experiment located in Gran Sasso, Italy searching for the neutrinoless double-beta (0νββ) decay of 130Te. This rare type of beta decay, if detected, would emit two electrons without any electron antineutrinos to balance them out. The discovery of neutrinoless double beta decay could offer an explanation as to why we live in a matter-dominant universe.

My role in the project was to compare calibration data from the CUORE experiment to corresponding simulated data from the same calibration runs. I used ROOT software built on C/C++ for work in particle physics in my analysis and was able to find several regions of interest in which the simulations did not closely match the actual calibration data. This provides the collaboration with valuable information about the accuracy of the simulations and any possible issues with the detector or current data acquisition methods.

To view the poster I presented at the American Physical Society Division of Nuclear Physics Conference, click here.

Universidad de Chile New Worlds Lab: Summer 2016

During my freshman year at Yale, I self-designed a program to collaborate between the astronomy departments at Yale University and the Universidad de Chile. I received funding through the Alan S. Tetelman Fellowship for International Research in the Sciences ($3500) for an 9-week research project in Santiago, Chile. During my time there, my goal was to explore the relationship between stellar activity and radial velocity data on exoplanets. Under the guidance of my lab director, Dr. James Jenkins, I focused on the magnetic activity of a exoplanet's host star and tested different methods to counteract the Zeeman Effect in stellar spectra that leads to imprecise results in exoplanet detection.

In addition, I spent one week observing exoplanet targets through the Swiss Euler 1.2 meter telescope at La Silla Observatory in the Atacama Desert. I finished out my project with a lecture for the department at the Cerro Calán Observatory of the Universidad de Chile

Click here or more information about the New Worlds Lab at the Universidad de Chile.

Boston University Astronomy Department: Summer 2014

As a rising senior in high school, I participated in the Research Internship for Science and Engineering to complete a six-week project in astronomy. I worked with Python and data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to calibrate a color-magnitude relationship of M dwarf stars with known distances. I used data from the Cerro Tololo Observatory to perform the analyses, and prepared and presented my findings at a final internship poster symposium.

Click here to view my research poster for this project.