Prize Recipient

Laura Lopez

Laura Lopez


Background:

I have completed my freshman year at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology where I am majoring in physics with a specialty in astrophysics. During the past year, I began work on a pulsar timing system that will be implemented at the Very Large Array (VLA). This summer I am working at the Starfire Optical Range, which is part of the Air Force Research Laboratory. Starfire is an observatory that employs adaptive optics, a system that uses a deformable mirror and lasers to remove the distortion from astronomical images caused by the Earth's atmosphere. Previously, I have worked on astronomical research projects during high school which earned me the 1999 National Young Astronomer Award. My first project measured the amount of cosmic radiation that the Earth receives an whether shelter, altitude, tiem of day, or weather had any effect on the amount of incoming radiation. The following year I analyzed the spectra of serveral galaxies to determine their shape, color index, distance, relative speed, and properties such as star formation or presence of a central supermassive black hole. For my final high school project, I observed and took CCD images of active galaxies in the Perseus Supercluster. I determined whether there were many differences between active and inactive galaxies and between the two types of active galaxies I found - Seyferts and LINERs. I found differences in the number of companion galaxies, peculiarities, presence of starlike nuclei, and significant differences in the shape of the galaxies.