Rachel McClure and Jennifer Stafford awarded National Science Foundation Fellowships

Mar 28, 2021

Graduate students Rachel McClure and Jennifer Stafford have been selected for support by National Science Foundation, through the NSF's Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). The selection process of the GRFP is nation-wide and extremely competitive; therefore, it's particularly noteworthy (and a cause for celebration!) that both Rachel and Jennifer have won this prestigious award. Their Fellowships will support them for three years, undertaking reasearch in their chosen areas.

The barred spiral galaxy NGC 5754 (center) interacting with NGC 5752 (bottom-left). Image credit: NASA/Hubble WFPC2/W. KeelRachel describes her propsed research thus: Disk galaxies with spiral arms are ubiquitous throughout the local universe yet we still do not understand spiral arm formation and longevity, nor how or where bars will exist with those spiral arms. The work outlined in this proposal is works towards three questions within the broader field of the origin and evolution of galaxies to investigate: (1) In which specific disk galaxies do bars form? (2) When do the bars form in those galaxies and how long do the bars exist? and (3) How are the bars supported by or supporting the overall morphology of the disk galaxy? In the recent age of large galaxy surveys in a wide range of wavelengths, we can bring together massive hydro-simulations to test theory against observations to answer these questions.

X-ray observations of the Perseus galaxy cluster [top], and MHD simulations of jets from an active galactic nucleus. Image credits: Churazov et al (2003), Chen et al. (2019)Likewise, Jennifer describes her proposed research thus: Observations of cool core galaxy clusters imply that some form of heating must keep the cluster centers from cooling catastrophically. The prevalence of radio galaxies and X-ray cavities in the centers of these clusters suggests that Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) are a key component in explaining the required heat input. The motions driven by these jets may work in a way similar to a geothermal heat pump, by bringing cold gas from the cluster center into thermal contact with the hot outer atmosphere of the cluster. I will test this theory through magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations of AGN jets in galaxy clusters.

UW-Madison Astronomy Home