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Ava P

- Research Program Mentor

PhD Doctor of Philosophy candidate


Physics, astrophysics, galaxy evolution, observational astrophysics, computational astrophysics

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.


One of the fantastic things about astronomy is the sheer amount of data that exists publicly. Whether amateur databases like AAVSO or ready-to-download Hubble archives, there's quite a bit of research that can be done without ever proposing for telescope time. There are a number of options for projects involving existing data, but to provide concrete examples: • Without much specialized software, it is possible to study stellar explosions at multiple wavelengths. This could be as simple as plotting light curves of the same event across the electromagnetic spectrum (and doing a dive into the literature about that class of event) or as complicated as trying to comprehensively review a class of explosion and discern population statistics (also involving a dive into the literature). • Alternatively, if there's interest in gaining familiarity with some specialized astronomical software, there are myriad data available from Hubble, SDSS, ... that can be used for analysis of a single galaxy or a population of galaxies. This project could look something like trying to better understand the stellar populations (via a surface brightness profile, photometry, ... it depends on the choice of galaxy) involved.


As with many STEM fields today, astronomy is very computationally intense (for simulation, as well as data analysis). For a beginner, a good place to start might be the interface of observation and theory: fitting or very simply modeling data. This would also be a potential later stage of an observational project pending scope and interest. For those with more coding experience, a simple N-body simulation is a nice place to start astronomically. This could look like just integrating the orbit of the moon around the earth, or could be extended to more of the solar system.

Coding skills

python, C


"Ava was super helpful in answering any questions I had and providing me with resources so I could gain the necessary knowledge to make progress on my project. Although I took on an ambitious and challenging project, she guided me through the whole process and I am ultimately really proud of what I was able to accomplish."


"Polygence was a great experience that kept me motivated throughout the pandemic. Ava taught me a lot about what to expect for the field I want to go into."


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