Astronomy Professor Awarded NSF Grant for Student Research

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chris De Pree, professor of astronomy, has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research in Undergraduate Institutions grant for $200,000 to study the formation of “massive stars.” Students are an integral part of the research plan.

“High mass stars aren’t around very long, though they’re very energetic,” said De Pree. “They don’t form as often and don’t live very long. They’re somewhat rare occurrences. But they have a large impact on their environment.”

The Jansky Very Large Array (JVLA) radio telescope in New MexicoThe grant will support the reduction and analysis of data from the Jansky Very Large Array (JVLA) radio telescope in New Mexico and provides funds for students to conduct research during the school year and over the summer.

With the help of students, De Pree is working to understand the environments of young massive stars in Sagittarius B2, a region close to the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Great clouds of gas and dust in Sagittarius B2 block the view of traditional optical telescopes but these hidden regions of massive star formation can be viewed with radio frequency telescopes like the VLA, De Pree said.

“These observations can provide a test of existing hypotheses about how massive stars form,” De Pree said. 

Undergraduate research projects like these are a wonderful opportunity to solidify students’ interest in science, De Pree said. “Students who work in research as undergrads are more likely to go on to careers in the sciences.”

“As a women’s college dedicated to promoting women’s success in scientific fields, Agnes Scott College is thrilled to have yet another opportunity to provide women students with the chance to conduct research,” said Carolyn J. Stefanco, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college. “We are grateful to Professor De Pree and to the NSF for creating this transformative educational experience for women in the sciences.”

Agnes Scott College educates women to think deeply, live honorably and engage the intellectual and social challenges of their times. Students are drawn to Agnes Scott by its excellent academic reputation, exceptional faculty and metropolitan Atlanta location—offering myriad social, cultural and experiential learning opportunities. This highly selective liberal arts college is known for its diverse and dynamic intellectual community. Through SUMMIT, it provides every student, regardless of major, with an individualized course of study and co-curricular experiences that develop leadership abilities and understanding of complex global dynamics.