Colby prepares students for top Ph.D. programs in astrophysics, although its astronomy courses are also accessible to qualified students of all majors.
In Fall, 2010, there will
be four recent alumnae/alumni working Ph.Ds. at the University of Washington, Yale (two), and the University of Wisconsin. Two of the four are women. The typical path to graduate work in astrophysics is based on taking all of the courses required for the physics honors major. The astrophysics part begins by taking AS 231, Introduction to Astrophysics, in the first or sophomore year. This course prepares a student for work in research in astrophysics at Colby, and gives him/her an advantage in applying for NSF-funded summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) at national observatories and major universities. The final piece is an astrophysics Senior Project, Honors Thesis, or Senior Scholars Project.
Dustin Hickey '11, will be the third astrophysics student in consecutive years to complete a Senior Scholars Project--the most intensive and prestigious type of senior thesis at Colby. Kaylea Nelson '09 ("High Mass Star Formation and Modeling High Mass Protostellar Object IRAS 18151-1208") entered the Ph.D. program at Yale in 2009, and Jack Moriarty '10 (The Cluster Environment of High Mass Protostars) enters the same program in fall, 2010.
Both Kaylea and Jack had summer positions at the the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The figure at right if from Jack's Senior Scholars Thesis. It shows the cluster environment around the High Mass Protostellar Object IRAS 11234-6154 as a color image from near- and mid-IR images made with the IRAC and MIPS cameras on Spitzer Space Telescope. The red X's show low mass early-stage protostars, and the green X's show low mass late-stage protostars. The diffuse emission is due to interstellar dust.
Cliff Johnson '07 completed an Honors Thesis based on an REU at the University of Hawaii and entered the astrophysics Ph.D. program at Washington in 2009 after a year working at the Wyoming Infrared Observartory. His thesis has been published in The Astrophysical Journal, Vol 697, 1138-1152 (2009), "Discovery, Photometry, and Kinematics of Planetary Nebulae in M 82." Danielle Nielsen '09 switched to astrophysics from Italian. After REUs at Wisconsin, Rochester, and Cerrro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, and a year working at Cerro Tololo, Danielle will enter the Ph.D. program at Wisconsin in fall, 2010.
Introduction to Astrophysics, AS231, uses a 35 cm (14 inch) telescope on a research-grade
computer-controlled mount. It is equipped with a liquid-nitrogen cooled CCD camera, a
photometric filter wheel, a grating spectrometer, and auto-guiding. Eric Brockmeyer '06 is
shown here. Eric, who did a senior project on variable stars, is now an architecture
graduate student at Kent State University. AS231 is taken by non-science majors with
confidence in math and interest in astronomy. While grades are not important to
satisfaction in the class, Kristin Saucier '04, who had majors in International Studies and
Latin American Studies, is an example of a non-sciece major who got one of the top grades
ever in the class.