Emily Silich

Emily Silich, Undergradaute student, Physics and Astronomy

Observes supernova remnants

Hometown: Epworth, IA
Faculty mentor/advisor: Philip Kaaret, Professor and Departmental Chair, Department of Physics and Astronomy
What is your degree program and expected graduate date? I am majoring in astronomy and physics, and I plan to graduate in May 2021.
Please describe your research: I work with Dr. Kaaret on the HaloSat mission. HaloSat is a CubeSat, or small satellite, that was built at the University of Iowa and is currently taking observations of the X-ray sky from orbit around Earth. I have used observations from HaloSat to investigate global properties such as luminosity, temperature and elemental abundances of the Vela Supernova Remnant, a structure leftover from a massive stellar explosion.
In simple terms, why does this research matter? Supernova remnants are very interesting astronomical objects; Carl Sagan once said, “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth … were made in the interiors of collapsing stars.” By studying the aftermath of these stellar explosions, we can better understand our own origins.
How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I began performing research in the Department of Physics and Astronomy during my first semester at the University of Iowa.
How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Being involved in research has provided a platform for me to put the knowledge I’ve acquired in the classroom to the test in order to answer fundamental questions about our universe. Through research, I have developed skills in the laboratory, in analyzing and interpreting astronomical data, and in science communication, all of which have made me a better student and scientist.
What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? I plan to pursue a PhD in astrophysics, and ultimately perform research in experimental astrophysics at a NASA facility or university.

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