Grad student wins astronomy achievement award

January 13, 2009

During the conference banquet of the American Astronomical Society's (AAS) winter meeting held Jan. 7, Hwihyun Kim, a graduate student in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, was named the recipient of the prestigious Chambliss Astronomy Student Achievement Award.

Touted as one of the largest gatherings of astronomers, the semi-annual meetings of the AAS offer an opportunity to rub elbows with the stars - the world's foremost scientists in the field of astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology. Over 100 years old, the AAS group gathered in Long Beach, Calif. Jan. 4-8 and amidst this stellar gathering Kim's contribution did not go unnoticed. Download Full Image

"My officemate found out that I had won the gold medal of the Chambliss Student Achievement Award. He took a picture of the announcement on the notice board and showed me when I was in the session room listening to the talk," says Kim, who is focusing on observational cosmology, with particular interests in nearby dwarf galaxies and satellite galaxies in different cosmic environments.

The Chambliss Astronomy Student Achievement Award, which serves to recognize exemplary research by graduate students who present poster papers at the semi-annual AAS meetings, was awarded to her for her poster presentation titled: "Radial Change of Stellar Populations in the Extremely Metal-Poor Galaxy CGCG 269-049."

"I saw many good posters at the meeting," says Kim, originally from Seoul, South Korea. "I think I was confident and explained my results well when the judges came to my poster and asked me questions. I like talking to people about my research and I always get excited when I do. I'm guessing the judges saw that excitement too."

Using a well-thought out and intuitive lay-out, figures that clearly illustrated both the method of analysis used and her results, and concise, to-the-point text that avoided excessive use of jargon, Kim was able to successfully convey the results of her research to specialists in the field and lay-persons. "It is these qualities," says one of her advisors Rolf Jansen, an associate research professional in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, "that likely made her poster stand out among those of her peers. She is a promising young researcher in extragalactic observational astronomy and cosmology, who also has a strong interest in teaching and public outreach."

Much of the current state-of-the-art observational cosmology deals with the farthest reaches and earliest epochs of the Universe. These can be investigated directly - with considerable difficulty - or indirectly, using "stellar archeology" in galaxies that are nearby enough to resolve into their individual stars using the Hubble Space Telescope. The indirect method works because the stars that make up a galaxy form a fossil record of the circumstances when they were formed.

Kim's research focuses on doing just that in very small nearby galaxies, in satellites of large massive galaxies and in extremely metal-poor free-floating dwarf galaxies. Her work is based on a detailed analysis of the colors and brightness of thousands of individual stars resolved in Hubble Space Telescope (Advanced Camera for Surveys/High Resolution Channel) images obtained by ASU alumnus Michael Corbin (U.S. Naval Observatory). Kim's doctoral dissertation (defense in 2010) aims to confront existing numerical simulations and theory of galaxy assembly with observational data.

"Reducing, analyzing and modeling these multi-color images was a very painstaking job. The galaxy is so compact that even in these highest resolution Hubble images, its young star clusters and its older stars are just like two swarms of differently-colored bees that are partially mixed," says Rogier Windhorst, professor in the school and advisor to Kim. "But she disentangled both and made sense out of them. We now know that this galaxy formed its first stars over 5 billion years ago, and then had a spontaneous burst of star-formation only about 100-200 million years ago."

"Professor Windhorst always encourages and supports his students to attend meetings and conferences such as AAS," says Kim. "If he wouldn't have encouraged me to go to the AAS meeting this time, it would have not happened to me."

Kim follows a proud tradition of recognition of students in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the department of physics, both in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Amber Straughn, presently a postdoctoral fellow at NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, received the award in 2006, and Russell Ryan (presently a postdoctoral scholar at UC Davis) and Nimish Hathi (presently a postdoctoral scholar at UC Riverside) each received honorable mention.

Nikki Cassis

marketing and communications director, School of Earth and Space Exploration

Gymnastics opens 2009 season at home against Missouri

January 13, 2009

Complete"> Release in PDF Format" target="_new">" alt="Get Acrobat Reader" border="0" height="10" width="9" />

This Week --
The Arizona State women's gymnastics team will begin their 2009 season hosting Missouri on January 16. This is the first time the Sun Devils will open their season at home since 2004. Head Coach John">">John Spini is currently ASU's longest-tenured head coach, and is second on the all-time Sun Devil head coaching list. Former Sun Devil women's tennis coaching legend Anne Pittman holds the distinction as the longest-tenured ASU head coach at 31 seasons. Download Full Image

Promotions This Week --
Friday's meet marks Sparky's Kids to College Night as well as Staff Appreciation Night. Forms for Sparky's Kids to College and for Staff Appreciation are available on The team will also be available for a post-meet autograph session.

ASU In The Rankings --
The Sun Devils enter the season ranked 24th in the Preseason Coaches Poll. They are not ranked in this week's poll due to the fact they have not competed yet this season.

Scouting the Competition --
The Sun Devils narrowly lost to the Tigers last season in Colombia, Mo. The Tigers enter this season ranked 19th. They return senior Big 12 all-around Champion Adrienne Perry to their squad this season.

Welcome Freshmen --
The 2009 roster boasts seven freshmen. ASU welcomes Nicole">">... Ferrandino (East Norwich, N.Y.), Ellen">">Ellen Gebhardt (Carol Stream, Ill.), Amber"> Hammerschmidt (Rosemount, Minn.), Stephanie"> Hangartner (Chandler, Ariz.), Kahoku">">Kahoku Palafox (Kailua, Hawaii), Callie">">Callie Price (Mesa, Ariz.) and Kelly">">Kelly Reilly (Phoenix, Ariz.). These freshmen are expected to make an immediate impact.

Aye Aye Captain--
Tiana">">Tiana Jean will lead the Sun Devils as captain this season. The senior all-arounder was honored by the Pac-10 last season for her consistent performance in the all-around. Jean, who earned a career-best of 39.225 in the all-around last season, either raised or tied her career-high in every event last season. Jean tallied career-highs of 9.750 on vault, 9.875 on bars, 9.9 on beam and 9.875 on floor.

Fantastic Fran ---
Francesca">"... Mercurio enters her sophomore season after a fabulous freshman one. Mercurio became the tenth Sun Devil to be named Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week. Mercurio earned the honor by earning her first all-around win against Ohio State. Mercurio finished her freshman campaign with career-high marks of 39.250 in the all-around, 9.875 on vault, 9.825 on bars and beam, and 9.750 on floor.

Beaming Bormann ---
Kaitlynn">">K... Bormann was a rock last season on beam for the Devils and looks to do the same this season. Hitting 92.3 percent of her beam routines last season, Bormann earned a career-best 9.825 to win the apparatus at the UNO's Flip for the Cure. The junior looks to pick up where she left off in the 2009 season.

Keeping Up with the Jones' ---
Beat">">Beaté Jones comes back to the Sun Devils after a successful debut season. The explosive vaulter competed in all four events last season, something Coach Spini did not anticipate at the beginning of the season. Jones will look to compete in the all-around again this season and will likely lead-off on bars and anchor vault.

Reinstated ---
Nicole">">Nicole Harris was reinstated in November after leaving the team last season due to personal reasons. The 2006 All-American is expected to provide the Sun Devils with a solid score in the all-around each meet.
Out for the Season ---
The Sun Devils lost two gymnasts for the season before the year even began. Due to non-gymnastics-related injuries, the Sun Devils will be without the services of senior Ashlee">">Ashlee Hinkle and transfer Madison">">Ma... Snowden for the year. Snowden is expected to compete next season while Hinkle has retired from gymnastics.