Two Recent Physics Undergraduates Receive NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Awards

Brown Physics is pleased to announce that Kaley Brauer and Nora Shipp were recently honored with Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Nora ShippAn advisee of Professor Savvas Koushiappas, Nora Shipp received an ScB in 2014 and continued on to a PhD in Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Chicago. Nora is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the MIT Kavli Institute. The NSF recently announced that Nora was awarded an NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Fellowship for ‘Near-field Cosmology with 6D Stellar Stream,’ to carry out a program of research and education at Carnegie Mellon University. Nora will use observations and simulations of stellar streams orbiting the Milky Way to understand properties of dark matter and the physics of galaxy formation. For the educational component of the project, she will establish training and volunteer opportunities in data science for social good for astronomers and physicists with data science expertise.

Nora’s research project will establish robust predictions for populations of stellar streams around the Milky Way and beyond, using a variety of cosmological simulations and semi-analytic models. She will then use large astronomical surveys, such as the Vera C. Rubin Observatory Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) to test these predictions and to map the local distribution of dark matter, inform our models of small-scale galaxy formation, and measure the structure and assembly history of the Milky Way.

Kaley BrauerKaley Brauer, ScB, ‘17, was an advisee of Professors Peterson (Engineering) and Marston (Physics), who received departmental and University honors. She was awarded the Brown University R. Bruce Lindsay Award, given to a senior for excellence in physics, and the Eva A. Mooar Prize, which is awarded by Brown University annually to that woman student of the senior class “whose achievement over her college years gives evidence of the greatest mental growth and who has contributed to the college and to the community.” Kaley is currently a PhD Candidate at MIT.

The NSF recently announced that Kaley was awarded an NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Fellowship for ‘Little Galaxies, Big Impact: New Insights through Highly-Resolved Simulations of Early Dwarf Galaxies’ to carry out a program of research and education at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Kaley will conduct research to study how stars formed in the earliest galaxies. To do this, she will produce cosmological simulations of dwarf galaxies with individual stars, detailed chemical yields, and highly-resolved metal mixing. Stars from the smallest galaxies, called “ultra-faint dwarf" galaxies, are relics from the era of the first stars and galaxies, preserving clean signatures of early chemical enrichment. They are also poorly-understood ingredients in the formation history of the Milky Way. To improve accessibility to astronomy and space science, Kaley will write and illustrate a series of astronomy children’s books and freely distribute them to Boston-area schools through interactive visits to second-grade science classrooms. She will also organize and run a free weekend-long summer camp to inspire and introduce middle-school-aged young women to space science.

This work will provide the theoretical support necessary to reveal insights about early galaxy formation (differences in hierarchical formation) and chemical enrichment (differences in nucleosynthetic yields) that are contained within the full distribution of chemical abundance patterns. Kaley will quantify the origin of observed chemical abundance scatter as well as how metals mix in the interstellar medium of early galaxies and how this varies with different elements and different nucleosynthetic channels. Additionally, she will quantify the low-mass end of the Milky Way assembly history by comparing simulated abundance distributions to observations of the Milky Way stellar halo.

Congratulations to Nora and Kaley!