M. Virginia McSwain

Observations of Rotational Mixing in Massive Stars
Contact information:
Lehigh University
Department of Physics
16 Memorial Drive East
Bethlehem, PA 18015
mcswain@lehigh.edu
Fellowship status:
Starting year: 2004
AAPF alumnus
Fellowship institution: Yale University
Current (or last known) position: Assistant Professor, Lehigh University
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Research Interests:

Recent stellar models show that the evolution of massive stars is dependent not only on their initial mass and metallicity, but also on their rotation. They also show that rotational mixing causes significant abundance changes at the stellar surface, especially among He and the CNO elements, well before the convective zone deepens during the red supergiant phase. However, the rotating stellar models are not yet fully constrained, and observational evidence of such abundance changes is limited. Therefore I am performing a spectroscopic and photometric study of the OB populations of 20 open clusters. For each cluster member, its age, rotational velocity, and He/CNO abundances will be measured. This investigation will form the backbone of observations of rotational mixing in massive stars, and the results will provide important constraints that will improve evolutionary models of massive stars.

Education and Outreach Interests:

To promote astronomy education in the inner-city public schools of New Haven, I am developing several 6-week long astronomy laboratory units for grades K-4, 5-8, and 9-12 in coordination with the educational program at the Peabody Museum of Natural History. Each unit will culminate with an observing session at the Yale Student Observatory where students will be able to apply their classroom lessons to first-hand observations of the night sky.