Gwendolyn Rae Bell
Harvey Mudd College
"For her achievements as an undergraduate student at Harvey Mudd College and particularly her research Mass of the Milky Way and Dwarf Spheroidal Stream Membership."
Ms. Bell began her research concerning dwarf spheroidal galaxies at the U.S. Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station, while participating in a summer program sponsored by Northern Arizona University. Upon returning to Harvey Mudd College, she decided to continue the work as her senior research project. The resulting thesis provides an estimate of the total mass of the Milky Way within 100 kpc of Galactic center by calculating the orbits of some of the Milky Way's satellite galaxies, called dwarf spheroidal galaxies. Ms. Bell's mass estimate is one of the few mass calculations that extends to such a large Galactic radius and it relies on fewer assumptions than previous studies. This makes it an important step in understanding the large-scale properties of our Galaxy. In her thesis, Ms. Bell also examines the origins of the dwarf spheroidal galaxies themselves. Her orbit models support the theory that the satellite galaxies are actually the remnants of a larger object that was ripped apart in the halo of the Milky Way several billion years ago.
Following her graduation from Harvey Mudd College in 1998, Ms. Bell began graduate studies in astronomy at the California Institute of Technology. Her current research involves interacting galaxies called ultra luminous infrared galaxies. She is a member of the American Physical Society and the American Astronomical Society, where she presented a poster session in January of 1998 describing her thesis work.