Doctoral Student, Physics & Astronomy
1. What is your area of research and why is it important? How have you balanced your research priorities with your other activities?
I study astrophysics, more specifically my thesis work is on spectral classification of a rare type of variable star known as the R Coronae Borealis (RCB) variables. Understanding rare types of stars helps astronomers to put their theories of stellar evolution to the test, giving us a better idea of how the universe around us works.
I am passionate about being active in the science community and doing outreach to the public community. I served for two years on the Physics department’s Graduate Student Organization as the Vice President and more recently as President. I am also the emcee of our local Astronomy on Tap chapter which is run entirely within the Physics department. I have also worked with the local Glasgow Middle School Science Olympiad team who recently competed in the National Contest for Astronomy (as well as many other events!). While doing work outside of research takes a lot of time and dedication, I feel it’s very important and rewarding to involve yourself with your community.
2. What are the larger implications of this research?
My research will be the first of its kind, as no one has done such a comprehensive study on the spectra of RCB stars. As these stars are relatively poorly understood, presenting a robust system of identifying and classifying these stars could help with future work that may further characterize the underlying physics of these stars.
3. What inspired you to choose this field of study? What benefits did you glean from participating in career and professional development programming while in your program?
I find stellar evolution and stellar death fascinating. The stars I study are believed to be formed from two dead stars (white dwarfs) merging with each other and undergoing essentially a second lifetime. This kind of behavior is very rarely studied but is extremely interesting to me.
My advisor and I have worked to connect me with well-known scientists within the astronomy community and build a strong network for myself. Participating in events such as our departmental colloquium have also helped me to learn many things outside my own field and to meet scientists who provide outside advise to career planning that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
4.Why did you choose LSU to pursue your degree?
I chose LSU for graduate school because the faculty and students within the Physics and Astronomy department are extremely welcoming and helpful. I feel I’ve made a connection with most professors and graduate students within the department that have supported me and pushed me to perform to the best of my ability.
5. What are your future/long-term plans?
I learned in graduate school that I have a passion for sharing astronomy with students through teaching. I hope in the future to keep pursuing this goal by becoming a professor at a college where I can foster connections to students and hopefully inspire a new generation of astronomers. I also hope to continue my research in rare evolutionary stages of stars as I continue through my career.