The Catholic University of America

July 7, 2008

CUA Graduate Student Awarded Prestigious NASA Fellowship

Elysse Voyer, a graduate student in astrophysics at Catholic University, has been awarded a prestigious NASA/Graduate Student Researcher's Program fellowship.

The renewable grant is for up to three years and covers Voyer's expenses including funding for travel to conferences.

"These are not very easy to get and only the best students in the country are awarded the fellowships," says Duilia de Mello, research associate professor at CUA's Institute for Astrophysics and Computational Sciences and Voyer's adviser.

The fellowship allows Voyer to continue her research at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Originally from Marblehead, Mass., Voyer has been researching the evolution of galaxies at NASA Goddard since last year, while also taking graduate classes and working as a teaching assistant at CUA. She came to CUA in 2006 after earning an undergraduate degree in astronomy and atrophysics from Villanova University.

At Goddard, Voyer has been working with a deep image from the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 to study galaxies that existed 4 to 8 billion years ago. The image looks at a specific wavelength of light that detects star formation in these galaxies.

"I detect and measure the ultraviolet light from galaxies forming at these times and this will show how much star formation is going on inside of them," she says. "It's a real snapshot of time."

Voyer hopes to better understand how star formation in galaxies changes and develops over time, if there are trends between star formation and galaxy morphology, and especially to understand what the star formation environment was like when our own Sun was formed 4.5 billion years ago.

Says Voyer, "These are all big questions, though, that many astronomers and astrophysicists are working on, and I hope I can contribute as much as possible to these questions through my own research."

MEDIA: For more information, contact Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy at 202-319-5600.