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Miriam Fuchs '13 (center), along with Andrew West '99 (far right) and the rest of the research team.
Miriam Fuchs '13 (center), along with Andrew West '99 (far right) and the rest of the research team.

Studying the Stars

Astrophysics major Miriam Fuchs ’13  is doing research at Boston University this summer, but she feels right at home. Supervising her work investigating binary star systems is a fellow Ford: B.U. Assistant Professor of Astronomy Andrew West ’99.

West, who went on from Haverford to get a Ph.D. in Astronomy at the University of Washington, focuses his research on the magnetic activity of low-mass stars and their impact on the Milky Way, and how the physical conditions of galaxies affect global star formation.

Working with West in Boston, Fuchs has been using spectroscopic data on binary stars, two stars that orbit around the same center of mass, taken from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. She is using Doppler shifting techniques to calculate star revolution velocities and understand more about the general motion of binary stars.

Last summer, Fuchs enjoyed working in the lab of Haverford Assistant Professor of Astronomy Beth Willman and says that this experience motivated her to pursue further research opportunities this summer. “It was incredible to be able to apply the skills I learned in the classroom to the research setting,” Fuchs says. She has found her work this summer rewarding and enlightening.

“The programming and problem solving skills that I’m learning this summer are useful for future coursework, as well as in any astronomy that I would want to pursue after Haverford,” she says.  “Working at a large university gives you the chance to meet astronomers of all experience levels; I’ve learned not just about conducting research, but also about the possible future I could have if I continued to pursue an astronomy-related career.”

Fuchs spends much of her day in the lab, writing programs that analyze stellar data. She describes her work as a puzzle, and has found putting the pieces together to be a stimulating process. “It takes a lot of creative thinking and individual style in order to have a final result that you’re proud of,” she says.

--Jacob Lowy ‘14

The Strawbridge Observatory at Haverford College houses 12-inch and 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes which are actively used by students in Haverford astronomy classes.

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