Pasadena, CA—Pomona College junior and returning Carnegie Observatories intern Sal Fu was awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship in recognition of her academic and research success and to support her continued “academic study and research in the fields of science, mathematics, and engineering.” Fu has participated in the Carnegie Summer Undergraduate Research program over the past two summers, working with staff astronomer Josh Simon studying dwarf galaxies and streams of stars surrounding our Milky Way using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.
“The Summer Undergraduate Research Program at the Carnegie Observatories provides undergraduate students the exciting opportunity to do 10 weeks of original research in close collaboration with Carnegie astronomers at a world-class research site,” said Carnegie astronomer Gwen Rudie, the director of the summer program. “For me and the other Carnegie staff and postdocs, the program allows us the pleasure of mentoring outstanding, young astronomers like Sal. We are delighted by Sal’s success and the success of all our talented undergraduate researchers and look forward to the discoveries they will make in continued collaboration with Carnegie astronomers and in their future careers.”
Fu will be returning to Carnegie in June 2018 for a third summer research project. Her 2017 work demonstrated that a mysterious group of stars zooming around the Milky Way at high speed originated in a dwarf galaxy that was torn apart after approaching close to the center of our galaxy. According to Fu’s orbital calculations, the final destruction of the stream’s parent object occurred 70 million years ago, one of the most recent such events yet identified.
Fu and Simon searched through existing astronomical databases to locate previously unknown stars in the stream, which stretches across the entire constellation of Leo. The newly found stars are up to 100 times brighter than those previously known, allowing the researchers to study them in much more detail and uncover the stream’s origin.
Fu is in the final stages of preparing a description of her research to submit to The Astrophysical Journal later this month. Next fall she plans to apply to Ph.D. programs in astronomy.
Fu remarked: “Receiving this scholarship is an honor and a testament to the quality of the mentorship that I have received at the Observatories. I’m deeply grateful for the guidance and support that Josh and Gwen have given me over the past two years. I’m also grateful for the other astronomers at Carnegie, who were always happy to talk with me about science beyond my specific research project. One of the valuable aspects of being at the Observatories is knowing that people here believe in the value of my work and my growth as an astronomer.”
Director of the Observatories John Mulchaey said, “Sal’s work, and recognition by this prestigious scholarship, emphasizes how important our undergraduate internships can be to budding astronomers. We are fortunate to partner with astronomy programs at nearby Pomona College, as well as other Southern California colleges and universities, so that enthusiastic and talented undergraduate students can conduct original research under the supervision of professional astronomers. This opportunity for high-level, hands-on research for younger scholars is highly unusual and is an important training ground for exceptional individuals embarking on their careers.”
Carnegie intern and Pomona undergraduate Sal Fu (right) explains her research via an iPoster at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, D.C., in January 2018. Image courtesy Cindy Hunt
Fu’s internship was supported by the Rose Hills Foundation and the Pomona College Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP).