Madeline Lucey ’18, who graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with a degree in physics, has been awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Lucey is in the second year of a Ph.D. program in astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin.
Lucey will use the three-year fellowship to continue her research in galactic archaeology, which she describes as “the study of the chemistry and movement of stars to piece together the history of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Specifically, this award is for studying the oldest stars in our galaxy which contain a lot of information about the beginning of the universe,” she says.
“This award gives me the time and freedom to pursue a lot of the research projects I’m interested in,” says the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, native. “There is so much to explore and discover in astronomy. I'm very excited to keep trying to unlock all the information the stars in our galaxy contain about our universe’s history.”
Within the physics department at CC, Lucey had an emphasis in astrophysics, and conducted research with Assistant Professor of Physics Natalie Gosnell ’08.
“Maddie worked on my NASA-funded observational program on the WIYN 3.5m telescope to determine the binary population of two open clusters, Praesepe and Pleiades,” says Gosnell. “Maddie really helped get the research program off the ground and wrote the reduction analysis pipeline in Python [an interactive, general-purpose programming language] that my current research students still use.”
Lucey worked with Gosnell in the summer of 2017 and presented a poster on her research at the American Astronomical Society meeting in January 2018.
“Doing this research is when I realized how much I enjoyed doing research in astronomy and specifically how much I loved studying stars,” she says.
Lucey also received a Keller Venture Grant in 2016 to build a telescope and teach an astronomy course at an elementary school in Thailand where she had previously taught English. “Increasing access to astronomy is really important to me. The Venture Grant was my first venture into astronomy public outreach which I continue to do today as a part of the team running the Astronomy on Tap show in Austin,” she says.
Austin’s Astronomy on Tap program, started in 2014, is a once-a-month event that features accessible, engaging science presentations on topics ranging from planets to black hole to the beginning of the universe. In addition to talks, the event features trivia, prize giveaways, “Astronomy in the News,” and time to interact with presenters and other astronomers.