News from the Department (2020)

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December 2020

  • Jason Shuster and Naoki Bessho's proposal titled "Probing the Vlasov Equation with MMS Measurements: Enabling Unprecedented Exploration of Kinetic Plasma Phenomena" has been selected for funding. MMS is the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, a collection of 4 spacecraft orbiting to sample different parts of the magnetopause and magnetotail simultaneously. The Vlasov equation self-consistently describes the fundamental kinetic dynamics of plasma particles as they are accelerated through phase space via electric and magnetic forces, and MMS measures the seven spatial, temporal, and velocity-space dimensions of phase space needed to directly measure terms of the electron Vlasov equation. The research will explore which terms in the Vlasov equation are most important for deducing physical conditions in the plasma.

  • NASA has selected ADAP proposals from Cole Miller and Alex Dittmann on "Optimizing Mass, Radius, and Equation of State Information from NICER Data" and Marta Sewilo's "Mid-infrared Variability of Young Stellar Objects in the Magellanic Clouds" for funding. Congratulations!

  • Department chair Dr. Andy Harris reminisces about his time working with Dr. Reinhard Genzel, co-recipient of this year's Nobel Prize in Physics, in this Berkeley News article "High-powered, but supportive, environment draws students to Nobel winners' labs". Dr. Harris obtained his UC Berkeley Ph.D. under Genzel in 1986 and worked another eight years with Genzel at the Max Planck Institute.

November 2020

  • Quanzhi Ye quoted in This 12-Year-Old Is (Probably) The Youngest Person To Ever Find A Comet, a Forbes article.

  • Congratulations to Cole Miller and Isiah Holt for receiving a Faculty-Student Research Award from the Graduate School! With the award, Isiah will be simulating NICER data sets with a wide range of parameters, then using the analysis tools to characterize systematic interpretation biases.

  • Congratulations to Brad Cenko and his team for receiving a NASA Agency Honor Group Award for their leadership of the Gravitational Wave Electromagnetic counterpart Task Force!

  • Congratulations to Claire Guepin for receiving another prize for her thesis work from the Chancellerie des Universités de Paris.

October 2020

  • Jessica Sunshine is getting quoted in articles faster than we can keep up!

  • Congratulations to Astronomy's Nora Troja and her team, Geoff Ryan, Brendan O'Connor and Brad Cenko whose paper was published today (12 Oct) in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
    The team has been continuously monitoring the radiation emanating from the first (and so far only) cosmic event detected in both gravitational waves and the entire spectrum of light, the neutron star collision detected on August 17, 2017. Their analysis reveals that current models of neutron stars and compact body collisions are missing important information and provides possible explanations for X-rays that continued to radiate from the collision long after models predicted they would stop. To learn more, visit the CMNS announcement here.

  • Congratulations to Dr. Claire Guepin, our JSI Gehrels fellow, for winning the prestigious Daniel Guinier Prize from the French Physical Society (SFP)! This prize is awarded to one scientist per year for a particularly brilliant thesis. The importance of the research theme, the quality and originality of the results obtained, and the clarity of the presentation are the main selection criteria. Congratulations, Claire!

  • Congratulations to our department members and friends who have received NASA medals!
    • Early Career Public Achievement Medal: Kyle Murphy (Kyle also had his work highlighted in last week's Maryland Today bulletin to the campus.

    • Exceptional Public Service Medal: Francis Reddy, Tilak Hewagama

    • Exceptional Achievement Medal: Patricia Boyd

    and department friends Michael Mumma (Distinguished Service Medal), Amy Simon (Outstanding Leadership Medal), Aki Roberge (Exceptional Achievement Medal), and Li-Jen Chen and Ravi Kopparapu (Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal)
    Congratulations and thanks to all of the recipients!

September 2020

  • Congratulations to graduate student Ben Hord whose proposal, "The Hunt for Migrating Hot Jupiters to Constrain Formation" was selected for funding with a NASA FINNEST award.

  • Graduate student Zeeve Rogoszinski is mentioned in this article discussing black holes and the possibility of one in our solar system.

  • Congratulations to Assistant Research Scientist Kyle Murphy who is on a research team that was awarded $1.25 million from NASA to for a proposed satellite mission to study space weather. The mission, called Solar-Terrestrial Observer for the Response of the Magnetosphere (STORM), is one of five proposals selected by NASA to conduct a mission concept study. Following this nine-month study, NASA will choose up to two proposals to go forward to launch. If STORM is selected, the project will be funded up to $250 million. To learn more, read the CMNS news feature.

July 2020

June 2020

  • Congratulations to graduate student Julian Marohnic whose proposal, "Simulating tidal and spin-up distribution of rubble piles with irregular particles" was selected for funding with a NASA FINNEST award.

  • Congratulations to Professor Derek Richardson who was selected as the recipient of the 2020 Kirwan Research and Scholarship Prize. This award recognizes a faculty member for a highly significant work of research, scholarship, or artistic creativity completed in the recent past. To learn more, visit the CMNS announcement here.

May 2020

  • Myra Stone defended her thesis titled "The Cool Side of Galactic Winds: Exploration with Herschel-PACS and Spitzer-IRS" last Wednesday. This was our first virtual thesis defense, and the novelty did not detract at all from Myra's excellent presentation. Congratulations to Myra! Once she wraps up a few corrections she'll be looking for data scientist jobs, likely around here.

  • Congratulations to Pradip Gatkine for being selected to receive the College of Computer and Mathematical Sciences Board of Visitors' Outstanding Graduate Student Award for 2020. This is a one-a-year award across the entire campus that recognizes graduate students in the college who demonstrate excellence in scholarship and research. Pradip has been working with Drs. Sylvain Veilleux, S. Bradley Cenko, Stuart Vogel from Astronomy, and Prof. Mario Dagenais in Electrical and Computer Engineering, on a combination of astronomical and instrumentation research, hitting very high levels in both areas. Please join in the departmental congratulations to Pradip!

April 2020

  • Astronomers recently observed that a fragment of Comet Borisov had become separated as it travels through our solar system. Dr. Quanzhi Ye provided comment in this NY Times article It Came From Outside Our Solar System and Now It's Breaking Up.

  • Undergraduate student Caleb Harada has been awarded a prestigious NSF Graduate Fellowship. Caleb plans to pursue a graduate degree next year. To learn more, visit the CMNS announcement here.

March 2020

  • Dr. Sylvain Veilleux and Graduate Student Robyn Smith contributed to recent research efforts using the Chandra X-Ray Observatory in the search for an axion particle. Read the Chandra press release Chandra Data Tests "Theory of Everything".

February 2020

  • The Department of Astronomy thanks Dr. Ralph Pass (Math Ph.D. 1978) for his gift of $25,000 to seed a Mike A'Hearn Endowed Lectureship. This gift is for an annual prize lecture on the topic of planetary astronomy. The Department will be seeking other contributions, big and small, to reach the full $100,000 target for the endowment.

    An annual lecture is a wonderful way to remind us, and the broader community, of Dr. A'Hearn's influence as a scientist and human being, and we are very grateful to Dr. Pass for his generous gift.

  • Congratulations to Drake Deming, Grace Deming, Gerry Share, and Peter Teuben for being inducted in the first group of AAS Fellows!

January 2020

  • Congratulations to Dr. Quanzhi Ye who co-discovered an asteroid with an orbit that had only been hypothesized until now. To learn more, visit the CMNS website.

  • Dr. Suvi Gezari is quoted in an article in Science about black holes and the emissions of tidal disruption events (TDE). Dr. Gezari presented on this subject at the 235th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). To read more, visit the Science article here.

  • Congratulations to Dr. Sylvain Veilleux and JSI who helped discover the farthest galaxy group identified to date. The discovery was recently presented at the 235th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu. To learn more, visit the CMNS website.

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