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RIT Professor Carlos Lousto recognized as outstanding physicist diversifying the field Lousto received the 2019 Edward A. Bouchet Award from the American Physical Society

January 22, 2019

The American Physical Society (APS) is recognizing Rochester Institute of Technology’s Carlos Lousto for significant contributions to physics research and the advancement of underrepresented minority scientists. Lousto, a professor in Rochester Institute of Technology’s School of Mathematical Sciences and co-director of the Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation (CCRG), will receive the 2019 Edward A. Bouchet Award.

The award recognizes a distinguished minority physicist who has made significant contributions to physics research and the advancement of underrepresented minority scientists. The APS recognized Lousto “for contributions to both numerical relativity, conducive to the solution of the binary black hole problem, and the understanding of the first detection of gravitational waves and service to the Hispanic scientific community, including the establishment of the Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy, the University of Texas at Brownsville in 2003.”

Lousto will receive the award during an award ceremony on April 14 at the APS April Meeting in Denver. As part of the award, Lousto will receive funding to deliver talks at academic institutions to help more minority students to succeed in the field.

“I have thrived for excellence since I was an undergraduate student and continue to do so as a professor and researcher at RIT,” said Lousto. “As a first-generation university student, I see this award as an encouragement to members of underrepresented communities that like me at the time are now looking for an opportunity to achieve their dreams.” Lousto added that from his first RIT advisee to his recent top students, “I have tried to convey students this idea of hard work to achieve high ideals.”

Lousto joined RIT in 2007 as a founding member of the CCRG. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. Lousto, who received a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of La Plata and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Buenos Aires, conducts research in numerical relativity, relativistic astrophysics, black hole physics and perturbation theory. Lousto is a key author of the 2005 breakthrough research on binary black hole simulations. His research discovered that supermassive black holes can be ejected from most galaxies at speeds of up to 5000km/s. He is also the designer of the NewHorizon and BlueSky supercomputer clusters at RIT to perform binary black hole simulations, and the Funes cluster at the University of Texas as Brownsville.

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RIT astrophysicist develops technique to locate undiscovered planets, celestial bodies Theory about relationship between dying stars and companion objects confirmed

January 21, 2019

A revolutionary technique developed by an NTID astrophysicist at Rochester Institute of Technology could allow for a better understanding of the fates of solar systems when their stars cease to shine.           

Jason Nordhaus, an NTID assistant professor of physics and a program faculty member in RIT’s astrophysical sciences and technology Ph.D. program, has developed a system of complex 3D super-computer algorithms able to pinpoint the existence of previously undiscovered planets and celestial bodies associated with dying stars. His research is partially funded by a three-year grant from the NASA/Space Telescope Science Institute.

“The deaths of ordinary stars are marked by extraordinary transitions,” explains Nordhaus. “Iconic high-resolution images of dying stars have transformed our understanding of these events. In the past decade, we have discovered that this process of death that produces these spectacular images is linked to the presence of another star or planet in the system. However, large amounts of dust that mask these companions make them difficult to directly detect. We will continue to uncover the nature of these hidden companions and pin down where they orbit in these systems.”

Nordhaus explains that when a star dies, its physical size drastically increases and changes its shape. In fact, Nordhaus predicts that when our sun dies—billions of years from now—it will expand, reaching Earth, and will interact with other nearby planets, such as Jupiter.

Nordhaus’ technique was previously used to infer the presence of a hidden planet in the dying star L2 Puppis, which was later detected by the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, a collection of radio telescopes in northern Chile that observe electromagnetic radiation.

This summer, Nordhaus will work with several deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing students at RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf to study four systems for which Nordhaus has comprehensive data obtained over the past two decades. They are hoping that their 3D computer simulations will help determine which planets survive the death of their parent stars and which are ultimately destroyed.

“This helps us understand the fate of our own solar system, the fates of other star systems in the galaxy, and improve our understanding of how stars and planets interact,” said Nordhaus.

In addition to performing this groundbreaking research, Nordhaus is a member of RIT’s Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation, whose simulations of merging black hole binaries were used by the LIGO Project to confirm the breakthrough detection of gravitational waves from binary black holes in space.

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AST Annual Research Talks Jamboree

October 2018
Graduate students in the Astrophysical Sciences and Technology program presented highlights from their research projects at the annual AST Research Talks Jamboree Friday, October 26th, 2018. This event provides the opportunity for students to practice giving 
research presentations in an informal and friendly setting, while also providing those new to the program with an  overview of what people are working on. Although it has a serious purpose, because it is always held around Halloween,  it’s become a tradition to dress creatively.


Here’s a link to Dr. Robinson's  photos of the AST Research Talks Jamboree 2018

Photo #21 is a group picture of the presentation prize winners. Left to right: Emily Wilson (pre-PhD qualifier/MS, honorable mention; Meaghann Stoelting (pre-qualifier/MS, best talk); Kevin Cooke (post-PhD qualifier, honorable mention), Yashashree Jadhav (post-PhD qualifier, best talk).

RIT alumni recognized for outstanding research on black holes Researchers celebrated at annual Graduate Alumni Awards reception

October 2018

Triana Almeyda ’17 Ph.D. (astrophysical sciences and technology) received the Ph.D. Dissertation Award for her research on dusty molecular gas clouds that surround active galactic nuclei, the supermassive black holes at the center of large galaxies.

Daniel Wysecki ’17 MS (astrophysical sciences and technology) earned the MS Thesis Award for his research using gravitational wave measurements to better understand merging black holes and neutron stars.

You can read the full article on University New here:

AST Graduates win 2018 RIT Graduate Education Dissertation Awards

July 2018

Alumna Dr. Triana Almeyda is the recipient of the 2018 RIT Graduate Education Dissertation Award for exceptional PhD-level research.

AST PhD Graduate Student Daniel Wysocki is the recipient of the 2018 RIT Graduate Education MS Thesis Award for exceptional thesis research.  Daniel received his MS Degree in December of 2018 on the way to his PhD degree.

RIT Observatory Open Houses

July 10, 2018

It's time for Mars! This summer, the Earth will catch up to Mars as they orbit around the Sun. The orbit of Mars is not a perfect circle: sometimes it's closer to the Sun (and the Earth), sometimes it's farther away. This summer, Mars will be nearly as close to the Sun -- and the Earth! -- as it ever gets. That means that this summer is the best time to view Mars in many years!

The RIT Observatory will hold two Open Houses specially focused on Mars -- but Jupiter and Saturn will also be easy to see. Come and join us to get a good look at the Red Planet and some of its friends.
Friday, July 20 (rain date Sat, July 21): 9:30 - 11:00 PM 
Friday, Aug 3 (rain date Sat, Aug 4): 9:30 - 11:00 PM
Check the AST Observatory Website: a day before each event for a status update. Remember that we can't see other planets when the skies are covered with clouds ... 

AST graduate students win awards at 231st American Astronomical Society meeting

January 12, 2018

Posters presented by AST Ph.D. students Yashashree Jadhav and Chi Nguyen earned them both Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Awards at the 2018 Winter meeting of the AAS in Washington DC, this January. Yashashree and Chi were among only 6 graduate students selected for these awards. They were part of a large RIT contingent at the meeting, including some 15 students, post-docs, faculty and alumni. As well as the award winners,  Jesse Bublitz and Annie Dickson-Vandervelde also presented posters, while Kristina Punzi, Kevin Cooke, Jake Lange and recent alumna Dr. Triana Almeyda ('17) all gave talks. In his capacity as the current chair of the AAS Committee on Employment, Dr. Joel Kastner, interim AST Program Director, oversaw a wide range of career and professional development events and workshops, ably assisted by AST alumnus and fellow committee member Dr. Rudy Montez (’10).

AST graduate students: (left to right) K.Cooke, Y.Jadhav, J. Bublitz, C.Nguyen, K.Punzi, and A.Dickson-Vandervelde

AST PhD student's Mysterious "Winking" Star research published and highlighted by NASA

December 21, 2017

Kristina Punzi, AST PhD Student, published a paper concerning a mysterious "winking" star RZ Piscium, that suddenly dims by a factor of 10-20 in brightness. Her paper describes her research team’s new XMM-Newton X-ray and ground-based (Keck and Lick Observatory) optical spectroscopy results that (a) nail down the youth of the star and (b) provide strong evidence that the star's dimming is most likely caused by the intermittently intervening wreckage of one or more giant planet(s) now being "eaten" by the star.

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