This is the unofficial website of the NSF AAPF program, run by the fellows themselves. For official information about the fellowship, please go to the NSF program announcement.
Over the last century, astronomers have constructed a detailed and convincing story to describe the last days of massive stars. Surprisingly, however, the observational evidence supporting this story is rather thin. As residents of a relatively remote neighborhood of the Milky Way, our studies of the Galaxy are hindered by the dust lying along our sight lines into its center. As a result, there remain many unanswered questions about the death of massive stars. Yet we believe that this story is an important piece of a larger tale: the chemical and physical Galactic history. The supernova explosions that mark the end of massive stars act as elemental factories, and are responsible for much of the diversity that makes complex chemistry--and life!--possible. The stellar remnants they leave behind, including neutron stars, are subject to exotic physics impossible to study on Earth. This is a story worth knowing well.
Today, a number of exciting surveys are lifting the veil on the inner regions of the Galaxy. While interesting individually, the surveys are most useful when compared to each other; such correlations are in fact indispensable when trying to obtain a complete census of the sources found in any given survey. Accordingly, as an NSF Fellow, I will correlate several recent surveys to construct a detailed, multiwavelength picture of the Galactic plane and to explore the Milky Way's population of supernova remnants and neutron stars. The catalog produced from these correlations will be the best dataset for addressing the remaining discrepancies in our story of the death of massive stars.
As a Fellow, I plan to build on work I have done as a graduate student to understand and address the leaky pipeline that causes us to lose many talented students from underrepresented groups before they can become scientists. I will partner with programs that work with these students, such as the Science and Technology Entry Program at Columbia University, and teach an astronomy class to their high school students. In addition, I will join in teacher-training activities such as those organized by the American Museum of Natural History.