At Kitt Peak National Observatory, Erin O’Leary used Hubble Space Telescope images to analyze galaxies. In January, she will present her findings to the American Astronomical Society. At Kitt Peak, 56 miles southwest of Tucson, O’Leary ’13 (Eau Claire, Wis.) and her advisor worked to identify merging galaxies and their role in galaxy evolution. They explored two methods of merger identification and compared the approaches with the hope of improving both techniques.
“My work with Professor Cannon definitely helped when it came to application time, and he was very supportive of my gaining another, different kind of research experience.”
“After doing astronomy research the previous summer at Macalester with Professor John Cannon, I was eager to gain more research experience, so I applied to several astronomy REUs (Research Experience for Undergraduates),” says O’Leary. “My work with Professor Cannon definitely helped when it came to application time, and he was very supportive of my gaining another, different kind of research experience.”
At Kitt Peak, O’Leary, who majors in physics with an astronomy emphasis, also wrote computer programs to process several data sets. In addition to the research experience, she found the REU was a great opportunity for networking.
“I’ve been inspired by the many professional astronomers I met who took the time to explain their work to me,” she says. “It has also been great to meet fellow undergrads and grad students, and to visit a slew of amazing observatories in Arizona and New Mexico.”