Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Megan Geen

Activities? Outside of class I assist my advisor, John Collins with his research on absorption spectra. Also for the past two years I have participated in the alternate Winter Break Program which goes down to New Orleans to help rebuild. My research is a part of the Physics REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) Program at the University of California, Davis.

My research: This summer I am researching the mass distribution of a galaxy cluster, MACSJ0417.5-1154, through gravitational lensing with my advisor Marusa Bradač. This cluster is located in the constellation Eridanus, and is mainly of interest because it is a post-merger of two smaller clusters. By knowing the mass distribution of this cluster, scientists will be able to study such things as dark matter, galaxy evolution, and distant stars through magnification.

My research is a part of the Physics REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) Program at the University of California, Davis just outside Sacramento. I first heard of REUs my freshman year from various professors and other students, but it was not until this year that I applied to any. I found this program on the National Science Foundation’s website which actually lists all the country’s programs that it funds.

Because of my research I am obviously learning tons about astronomy, specifically about galaxy clusters, gravitational lensing, and the images taken by Hubble Space Telescope and Subaru Telescope. But there are thirteen other students in this program with me doing research in other areas of physics, so I am also learning about other areas of physics such as high energy physics, condensed matter, particle physics, and biophysics. Plus I’ve been learning what it would be like in graduate school and how to prepare for the GRE in Physics.

Most thrilling adventure? As part of the REU Program, we have gone on various trips around northern California including going to Muir Woods & Beach and the Lick Observatory where we got to look through a telescope and see objects like binary stars, globular clusters and Neptune. We have also gone camping at Lassen Volcanic National Park where we climbed the Cinder Cone, a dormant volcano basically made of sand, and spent a weekend at Lake Tahoe, one of the bluest lakes I have ever seen.