NU professor wins National Science Foundation award

Allyson Chiu, Campus Editor

A Northwestern astrophysicist received a National Science Foundation award, which will help fund research on galaxy formation, the University announced last week.

Physics and astronomy Prof. Claude-André Faucher-Giguère, whose research focuses on understanding how today’s galaxies formed from the Big Bang, is the recipient of the NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development Program award. According to a news release, Faucher-Giguère will receive nearly $800,000 over five years from the NSF’s Division of Astronomical Sciences to create galaxy formation simulations. The funding will also be used to develop opportunities for undergraduates to do research in the summer and create interactive visualizations for the public, the release said.

With the money from the award, Faucher-Giguère and his research group will improve current galaxy formation simulations by developing more accurate models for stellar feedback — the energy output from processes like supernovas — and its effect on regulating star formation in galaxies. Stellar feedback affects the evolution of galaxies and is essential to explaining the characteristics of observed galaxies, according to the release.

In addition to the models, Faucher-Giguère plans to create a chance for undergraduates to learn about astrophysics as well as develop computational and data analysis skills through summer research programs, the release said.

The award will also contribute to an education and outreach program, the release said. The program will feature interactive visualizations of the research group’s galaxy simulations, which will be brought to the public through partnerships with institutions such as the Adler Planetarium.

“I am very honored to have been selected for this award and its generous support,” Faucher-Giguère said in the release. “An important aspect of the CAREER award is that it provides support for five years, rather than the three years more typical of federal grants. This longer-term support will enable us to undertake more challenging projects with higher potential impact than we could complete in a regular three-year funding cycle.”

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