“The purpose of our research was to understand the morphology and dynamics of these galaxies and answer questions such as why some of these groups are extremely deficient in hydrogen.” —Diego Fabrizio Lopez Gutierrez

By Diego Fabrizio Lopez Gutierrez ’21

Lima, Peru

Physics (Astronomy)

I got a position last summer with Professor John Cannon to work on galaxy evolution, studying intriguing groups of galaxies called the Hickson Compact Groups. The purpose of our research was to understand the morphology and dynamics of these galaxies and answer questions such as why some of these groups are extremely deficient in hydrogen, and if this deficiency correlates with the galaxies’ star formation rate.

Even though I had only a basic knowledge of astronomy at first, my more-experienced coworkers and Professor Cannon guided me through the mechanisms behind radio-astronomy research. My physics preparation at Mac also served as a strong starting point, giving me the theoretical and experimental background necessary to delve into a real scientific endeavor.

I enjoyed how approachable Professor Cannon was. He was always there when we needed explanations, and he was patient and concise. I also appreciated that he gave us the chance to work independently, too. That let us solve many problems on our own, which made us more competent and confident researchers. Another valuable skill I got to practice was presenting my results in front of an audience. Every Friday, the physics department organized oral presentations during which each student presented their results to other physics students and faculty. This let us analyze our work more deeply and present it in a way that everyone with a physics background could understand and engage with, a desirable quality in any scientific talk.

Not everything we did last summer was work, though. Every Friday, a lab group was in charge of preparing a barbecue for all the researchers at Mac to enjoy. This was a time to socialize and get to know my coworkers more, which added to the whole research experience. Additionally, when we were done working, my coworkers and I would usually play cards or watch movies, and, just like during the academic year, there was a strong sense of community within and outside my lab that is characteristic of a small school such as Mac. On top of that, living in the Twin Cities during the summer was beautiful, with sunny weather and plenty of events. Overall, I consider my summer research an invaluable experience.

November 15 2018

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