Graduate Program in the News

2014  |  2013  |  2012


Erik Brugamyer Wins 2014 Fred T. Goetting, Jr. Memorial Endowed Presidential Fellowship

December 2013

erik brugamyer

Erik Brugamyer

Erik Brugamyer has been awarded the 2014 Fred T. Goetting, Jr. Memorial Endowed Presidential Fellowship. The Goetting Fellowship is granted by faculty vote, recognizing a student for outstanding service to the Department, usually for excellence in teaching. Erik was elected Graduate Student Representative his 3rd year, and was instrumental in one of the most successful recruiting efforts in recent years. He states his favorite teaching experience at UT was as a TA for Dr. Volker Bromm's undergraduate signature course, History and Philosophy of Astronomy. "I love history, and I love astronomy", Erik says, "so helping teach this course was a real pleasure, not to mention a wonderful learning experience! In fact, over the past couple years I've worked some of Volker's course content into my own physics and astronomy classes that I've taught at Austin Community College." Erik's Ph.D. research is focused on chemical compositions of stars that host planets. He is working with Chris Sneden.

Michael Gully-Santiago Wins David Benfield Memorial Fellowship

December 2013

marshall johnson

Michael Gully-Santigo

The 2014 David Benfield Memorial Fellowship in Astronomy has been awarded to Michael Gully-Santiago. The fellowship recognizes outstanding research by a senior graduate student. Michael has developed techniques using electron beam lithography to create nanoscale silicon diffractive optics, used for high-resolution spectroscopy at infrared wavelengths. He has also uncovered an unexpected population of Brown Dwarfs, rare sub-stellar objects, some diskless some with extreme disks, in a collaboration using Chile's Magellan Telescope. Michael works with Professor Dan Jaffe.

Marshall Johnson Wins Frank Edmonds Memorial Fellowship

August 2013

marshall johnson

Marshall Johnson

This award is usually given to a second or third year student who shows strong promise in research. Marshall Johnson was selected by faculty vote for his work with Bill Cochran on Doppler Tomography of exoplanet transits. This technique enables one to determine the orbital obliquity, and hence trace the dynamical evolution of transiting exoplanets. Tomography is particularly well suited for hot, rapidly rotating host stars where conventional techniques fail. Marshall has developed a computer code to analyze the observational data and his code is performing as well as any of the few published results in this field.

Yi-Kuan Chiang Wins Board of Visitors 2nd Year Research Defense Award

June 2013

yi-kuan chiang

Yi-Kuan Chiang

Yi-Kuan Chiang has won the BoV 2nd Year Research Defense Award, receiving the highest possible evaluation scores from the qualifying exam committee, for "A Systematic Approach to Galaxy Cluster Formation in the Early Universe". Yi-Kuan has been comparing existing cosmological simulations of the early universe to high redshift observations, to identify the precursor components of galaxy clusters before they coalesce. His research will inform the HETDEX project, a survey scheduled to observe galaxy and galaxy cluster distribution through time, for the first clues explaining the expansion rate of the universe.

Rodolfo Santana Wins Department of Astronomy Continuing Fellowship

June 2013

rodolfo santana

Rodolfo Santana

Rodolfo Santana has won the Department of Astronomy Continuing Fellowship for 2014. The award is determined by faculty vote. Rodolfo has been working on theoretical studies of gamma-ray bursts with Prof. Pawan Kumar: understanding X-ray emission, the origin of X-ray emission plateaus, how central engines reactivate, and the radiative mechanism of X-ray flares. He served previously as Graduate Student Representative and has been recognized as an exceptional TA.

First Year Graduate Students Receive Summer Research Fellowships

June 2013

First year graduate students Aaron Smith and Jeremy Ritter have received summer research fellowships, funded in part by generous contributions from the following individuals:

Stephen Howard Blount, Sam and Sarah Cooper, Clint A. Davis, Bill and Sue Jefferys, Gery and Susan Muncey, and an Anonymous Donor.

Nearly all of the named donors are also members of the McDonald Observatory and Department of Astronomy Board of Visitors.

Aaron Smith

aaron smith

Aaron Smith

As a cosmologist, Aaron is interested in the early Universe. Past projects include data analysis of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) and cosmic infrared background (CIB), neutrino cosmology, and applications of general relativity to black holes and neutron stars. He is currently working with Professor Volker Bromm on understanding the formation and evolution of the first galaxies, primarily through computational simulations. These models help guide the next generations of ground and space-based observatories that explore the high redshift Universe. Aaron was able to attend the StarBench Workshop at the University of Exeter this spring to further his study of hydrodynamical simulations and understanding of the formation of the first stars and galaxies.

Aaron graduated with BS degrees in Math and Physics from Brigham Young University. In his free time he writes and plays music.

Jeremy Ritter

jeremy ritter

Jeremy Ritter

Jeremy began his career as an undergraduate physics student at the University of Texas, but was inspired by working with Professor Milos Milosavljevic and realized that astronomy was his true passion. His research has been focused on studying the effects of supernovae on early galaxy formation. These supernovae disperse heavy elements and play a significant role in processes on a vast range of astrophysical scales, from radiative cooling by metal lines to galactic winds. His numerical simulations allow us to study the thermodynamic structure of hot ionized outflows being driven into the intergalactic medium and the time it takes for these supernovae to enrich star forming clouds with metals.

Jeremy will be attending the "Mind the Gap" conference being held at The University of Cambridge this summer. The conference's main focus is on numerical simulations of galaxy formation with special attention to bridging the gap between small scale microphysics and large scale structure formation.

Kevin Gullikson Wins Graduate School Continuing Fellowship

May 2013

kevin gullikson

Kevin Gullikson

Kevin Gullikson has won a competitive, university-wide Graduate School Named Continuing Fellowship for 2013-2014. Entering his 4th year, Kevin is currently working with Prof. Sally Dodson-Robinson. She writes that Kevin's thesis will "provide the last word on whether star formation by disk instability is common or rare." Kevin developed a new observing technique that can also be extended to planet formation in solar-type systems. Kevin has been awarded four observing nights on the CTIO 1.5 m telescope through a nationally competitive NOAO proposal process, in addition to time on McDonald's 2.7 m telescope.

Hyunbae Park Wins Summer Fellowship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science

hyunbae park

Hyunbae Park

April 2013

The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science has awarded Hyunbae Park (a 3rd year student working with Dr. Paul Shapiro) a fellowship for their 2013 summer program. This fellowship will provide an orientation into Japanese culture and research systems and an opportunity to pursue research under the guidance of Dr. Naoki Yoshida from the University of Tokyo.

Thomas Gomez Wins NSF Fellowship

April 2013

thomas gomez

Thomas Gomez

Thomas Gomez has recently won a 2013 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Thomas is a second year graduate student working with Drs. Don Winget and Michael Montgomery. His selection was based on outstanding abilities and accomplishments, as well as potential to contribute to strengthening the vitality of the US science and engineering enterprise. The prestigious fellowship will provide full support for up to 3 years.

Michael Gully-Santiago Wins "Nano Night" Prize from the UT Center for Nano and Molecular Science

April 2013

michael gully-santiago

Michael Gully-Santiago

Michael Gully-Santiago has won 3rd prize for Best Graduate Student Poster, "Silicon diffractive optics for astronomical infrared spectroscopy," at the UT Center for Nano and Molecular Science's annual "Nano Night" poster session. Michael is the first astronomy presenter to the event, which this year featured 46 researchers from 10 departments across the University. Michael's research in diffraction gratings, an optical device that disperses light into its component wavelengths, will enable a new instrument, to be installed this year, for the Harlan J. Smith 2.7 m telescope at McDonald Observatory. He has also developed technologies in construction of new instruments for some of the world's largest optical telescopes, the IRTF in Hawaii, and the GMT under construction in Chile, as well as an earth science satellite mapping changing CO2 abundance in the atmosphere. Michael works with Dan Jaffe, under a NASA Graduate Student Research fellowship through the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.