Department of Astronomy honors two students for excellence in academics, research

Liz Taranti and Grace Oliver
Liz Tarantino and Grace Oliver

Each year the Department of Astronomy awards the Jason J Nassau Prize to outstanding senior astronomy majors for excellence in academics and research. This year, Grace Olivier and Liz Tarantino were selected for the award.

Olivier works with Heather Morrison, professor of astronomy, on testing inside-out galaxy formation models locally in the Milky Way. Using the SEGUE stripes, she has created maps of the colors of stars in the outer disk of the Milky Way. From these maps, she found the ages of stars by matching the colors to stellar evolution models, after adjusting for the chemical composition of stars in different parts of the galaxy.

These maps of stellar ages in the outer disk of the Milky Way reveal much about the formation of the Milky Way’s disk and of substructure in the galaxy, such as the Monoceros Ring.

Tarantino works with Professor Stacy McGaugh, professor and chair of the Department of Astronomy, and Federico Lelli, postdoctoral scholar, on the kinematics of galaxies. She examines the distribution of mass in isolated galaxies, including the elusive dark matter found in their halos, by studying their rotation curves. Tarantino compares the observed kinematics of these galaxies to those in cosmological simulations in order to test different theories of dark matter.