WIU Student Awarded FAMOUS Travel Grant from AAS

MACOMB, IL — WIU graduate student Emmanuel Sanchez-Tovar (Applied Statistics and Decision Analytics, Department of Economics and Decision Sciences), of Costa Rica, received the FAMOUS (Funds for Astronomical Meetings: Outreach to Underrepresented Scientists) grant from the American Astronomical Society (AAS) to attend the 235th meeting of the society.

The meeting was held in Honolulu, HI, in early January. Sanchez-Tovar presented an e-Poster at the conference, which is a new poster format using large, tactile monitors. This technology allows researchers to include animations and dynamic graphs that would not be possible in regular posters. Sanchez-Tovar presented the research "Spectral Line Survey of Ionized Jet Candidates from Broadband VLA Observations." The work is supervised by Associate Professor of Physics Esteban Araya.

"Thanks to support from the National Science Foundation, we are investigating how very massive stars are forming, these are the stars that would later explode as a supernova," said Araya.

Sanchez-Tovar developed a computer program to extract information about molecular and atomic transitions otherwise overlooked in observations conducted with the Very Large Array (VLA), which is one of the most powerful radio telescopes in the world.

"In many projects, observations conducted with the VLA focus on the averaged microwave radiation, but within the data, there could be hidden signals from specific atomic and molecular species that can give us a new view into the nature of star formation," said Araya. "With the program created by Emmanuel, they can now uncover these hidden signals in observations previously conducted with the VLA."

In addition to the prestigious grant and scientific results, Sanchez-Tovar's experience exemplifies the interdisciplinary nature of research at the WIU Physics Department.

"Emmanuel is a student in the Applied Statistics and Decision Analytics MS program, and he is applying the skills he has learned to forefront research in astronomy," said Araya. "This work is a perfect example of the exciting opportunities for interdepartmental collaboration and student mentorship at WIU."

"The experience of traveling and being part of a conference with more than 3,000 people passionate about astrophysics was amazing," said Sanchez-Tovar. "In my first AAS meeting I was being able to make new friends and to learn about their research, goals, and adventures."

The WIU Astrophysics Research Laboratory is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (AST-1814063 in collaboration with AST-1814011), and computational resources donated by WIU Distinguished Alumnus Frank Rodeffer.

For more information about the WIU Department of Physics, visit wiu.edu/physics.

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