By:
Kirstin Wolfe, News Editor

Gravitational wave detection, black hole formation and supernovae are all common vocabulary for students in the Space Physics program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. While there are very few undergraduate students in the field of supernovae and gravitational waves, the ERAU campus in Prescott, Ariz. boasts about fifteen students studying the subject. Students work on research projects on top of school; some receive a stipend from the National Science Foundation (NSF) or the campus’s Undergraduate Research Institute (URI).

In collaboration with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), several students at ERAU’s Prescott campus have been given opportunities to study advanced physics topics before graduate school. Getting involved in research her freshmen year at ERAU through a recommendation from her academic advisor, Space Physics undergraduate Jasmine Gill has always loved outer space and aspires to one day become an astronaut.

Studying topics such as gravitational wave detection, collapsed supernovae, and how they work, students in Prescott have access to research that most students do not get until they are seniors going into graduate school. Gill’s research involves looking at how stars explode in the universe and detecting gravitational waveforms. When a star explodes, black hole formation may begin and sometimes another explosion will result. Studying gravitational waves allows researchers to identify and track these occurrences in space.

Gill’s most recent presentations include a LIGO seminar at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and another at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. LIGO meetings twice per year are an opportunity for many students in the research program to share their findings and collaborate with others. Gill has also presented her research at the annual undergraduate research symposium on campus and also for the Board of Visitors and Board of Trustees of ERAU. “Whenever they want me to talk, I’ll talk at this point,” Gill commented on how often she presents her findings.

Gill has already published several papers on her research and has a few more on the way in the next two months. “These are scientific accredited journals that researchers read and submit to,” Gill noted. In her junior year at ERAU, Gill has a summer fellowship at Caltech lined up and is already looking into graduate school programs to continue her research. Also coming up is her senior thesis, for which Gill said she will expand on one of the several papers she has already published about supernovae.

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