Research collaborations aim for the stars
Dr Chris Watson (R) and Dr Yilen Gomez
Researchers from Queen’s and Vanderbilt University in Nashville are aiming for the stars with a number of new research collaborations.
Visits by Professors Stephen Smartt and Don Pollacco from Queen’s Astrophysics Research Centre and Professor Keivan Stassun from Vanderbilt to their partner institutions have initiated several research projects and led to the first joint science papers.
Three papers jointly authored by Queen’s Astrophysics Research Centre and Vanderbilt’s Department of Astronomy have been published in the last six months in the Astronomical Journal, and Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Professors Pollacco and Stassun together exploited the Queen’s led SuperWASP project on La Palma to study two of the smallest and youngest stars in a binary system. The lead author, Dr Leslie Hebb, formally of the SuperWASP project, is now based in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in Vanderbilt.
The Queen’s-Vanderbilt team has also used the Vanderbilt SMARTS consortium telescopes in Chile together, leading to a paper in the Astronomical Journal.
Dr Chris Watson from Queen’s said: “Our alliance and our early brainstorming led us to think of new competitive projects we could do together. Both groups have expertise and access to telescopes and facilities that are very complementary. By working intelligently and using the Universities’ support we can build science teams that are greater than the sum of their parts.”
Collaborations between the two universities have also led to a number of secondments of research staff.
Dr Yilen Gómez Maqueo Chew who is originally from Mexico is a postdoctoral scientist employed by Vanderbilt. She is spending three years seconded at Queen’s to work in the Astrophysics Research Centre.
Professor Stephen Smartt, Director of ARC, said: “Vanderbilt have committed $200k to send Yilen here for three years and it is a pleasure to have her working with us. Having our young researchers spend time at Vanderbilt, and vice-versa is a great way to exchange fresh ideas and build a lasting collaboration. This year we have sent two PhD students, Matt McCrum and Heather Cegla, to Vanderbilt for extended visits.”
Matt McCrum, who is studying for a PhD at Queen’s and working with the Pan-STARRS project, spent three weeks in April in Vanderbilt working with Professor Keivan Stassun and his group.
Professor Stassun said: “Our two institutes are tackling quite similar problems in terms of dealing with vast data flows from new telescope facilities. It has been a pleasure to have Matt here and learn about how Queen’s is dealing with the Pan-STARRS data deluge. We have already developed new computer code together to analyse these types of data which demonstrates the value of extended face-to-face interaction.”