The MIT Pappalardo Fellowships in Physics can be found at https://web.mit.edu/physics/research/pappalardo.
Current MIT Pappalardo Fellows with an MKI Affiliation
Kevin Burdge, Pappalardo Fellow in Physics: 2021-2024
Kevin Burdge’s interests lie in discovering and characterizing astrophysical sources of both gravitational and electromagnetic radiation, especially those detectable by the upcoming space-based gravitational wave detector, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA). These sources are Galactic binary systems with orbital periods of less than an hour, and consist of two compact objects–generally a white dwarf with either a white dwarf, neutron star, or black hole companion. LISA is expected to detect tens of thousands of such binaries within the Milky Way, and Burdge’s work focuses on leveraging data from current and upcoming wide-field optical surveys such as the Zwicky Transient Facility, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), and the Vera Rubin Observatory to discover and precisely constrain the physical parameters of these objects using the photons they emit. So far, Burdge has doubled the number of known examples of LISA-detectable binaries in the span of two years using the Zwicky Transient Facility, including the two shortest orbital period eclipsing binary systems known, and he has measured general relativistic orbital decay in several of these systems.Short period binaries hosting two compact objects can be used to perform novel tests of General Relativity, precisely constrain the equation of state of objects such as white dwarfs, and study the processes of binary evolution which produce these systems. Many of these binaries are double white dwarf pairs predicted to produce a Type Ia supernova upon merger, a type of explosion which allowed for the measurement of the accelerating expansion of the universe.
Nicholas Kern, Pappalardo Fellow in Physics: 2020-2023
Nicholas Kern received his B.S. in physics and astrophysics in 2015 from the University of Michigan working on galaxy cluster dynamical mass estimation. In 2020, he completed his PhD in astrophysics at UC Berkeley working with Aaron Parsons on 21 cm cosmology and the tomographic mapping of the Epoch of Reionization. His work lies at the interface of experiment and theory of high redshift astrophysics and cosmology. Broadly, Nicholas is interested in problems related to precision radio interferometry, data analysis and optimal signal extraction, and cosmological parameter inference. Specifically, his research aims to understand when and how the first stars and galaxies in the universe formed and the way this process was tied to cosmological structure formation. In particular, Nicholas uses low-frequency radio telescopes that map the distribution of primordial hydrogen in the distant universe in order to shed light on these processes. His PhD work focused on the development of data analysis algorithms and pipelines for a new radio experiment, the Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Array (HERA), which aims to make a first measurement of such radio emission from the Epoch of Reionization. Nicholas’ background spans a wide range of sectors within the experiment, including hardware commissioning, data quality management, instrument calibration, data compression, and connections to astrophysical theory. His research goals at MIT are to establish these experiments as novel cosmological probes and to design the next generation of experiments that will provide new tests of the cosmological standard model.
Nicholas is also invested in teaching and student mentoring. During his PhD, he developed an introductory class on computer programming and data analysis for undergraduate students beginning research in astrophysics, which is hosted online and publicly accessible. He is also an instructor and student mentor for HERA’s summer research bootcamp and internship, which pairs students from California state and community colleges with summer projects at premier research institutions.
Future MIT Pappalardo Fellows with an MKI Affiliation
Anna-Christina Eilers, Pappalardo Fellow in Physics: 2022-2024 (currently NASA Hubble Fellow: 2019-2022)
Anna-Christina Eilers studies the formation and growth of supermassive black holes in the center of quasars and massive galaxies. As part of her PhD research, she developed a new method to estimate the lifetime of quasars that sets a timescale on which quasars accrete material to feed and grow their central black hole. She is particularly interested in the most distant known quasars, objects which date from when our universe was only a few hundred million years old. For the study of these very distant objects she uses large optical telescopes located in Chile and Hawaii, as well as various radio telescopes around the world. The goal of Eilers’s research is to understand how the first galaxies and black holes have formed, and how they evolved through cosmic time. She is also interested in developing new data-driven models to extract information from large data sets, and is working on modelling the structure and dynamics of the Milky Way with data from the Gaia space mission.
Eilers also enjoys public outreach and making astronomy more inclusive. She has worked at the Center for Astronomical Outreach and Education in Heidelberg, where she wrote articles for a popular science magazine and helped develop planetarium shows for visitors.
Past MIT Pappalardo Fellows with an MKI Affiliation
Steven Villanueva, MIT Pappalardo Fellow in Physics 2018-2021
Carl Rodriguez, MIT Pappalardo Fellow in Physics 2016-2019
Robert Penna, MIT Pappalardo Fellow in Physics 2013-2016
Meng Su, MIT Pappalardo Fellow in Physics 2012-2015
Laura Lopez, MIT Pappalardo Fellow in Physics 2011-2014
Simona Vegetti, MIT Pappalardo Fellow in Physics 2010-2013
Mustafa Amin, MIT Pappalardo Fellow in Physics 2008-2011
James Battat, MIT Pappalardo Fellow in Physics 2008-2011
Nitya Kallivayalil, MIT Pappalardo Fellow in Physics 2007-2010
Paola Rebusco, MIT Pappalardo Fellow in Physics 2007-2010
David Kaplan, MIT Pappalardo Fellow in Physics 2004-2007
Benjamin Lane, MIT Pappalardo Fellow in Physics 2003-2006
Robert Simcoe, MIT Pappalardo Fellow in Physics 2003-2006
Katherine Rawlins, MIT Pappalardo Fellow 2003-2005