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October 28, 2019

Nikki Noughani
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Major: Astronomy
Minor: Physics

Congratulations to this week’s #WSGCStudentSpotlight, Nikki Noughani! Nikki is currently studying astronomy and physics at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Over the summer, she received an Undergraduate Research Fellowship for her project, “Chasing down variable stars from a decade-long dataset.”

Nikki has always had an interest in mathematics and physics, and took her first astronomy course at the University of Wisconsin - Madison her freshman year; but her second astronomy course, An Introduction to Stellar Evolution, is what brought her into the world of stellar research. Nikki quickly began working on research with Dr. Kotulla, discovering variable stars from decade-long datasets.

Variable stars are ordinary stars that change in brightness in wildly variable degrees. Nikki’s research focuses on finding and characterizing these variable stars in a relatively new branch of astronomy called time-domain astrophysics. Characterizing the details of how the brightness fluctuates and on what timescale, along with the star’s properties such as mean brightness, temperature, etc., will help provide a greater understanding of the processes of stellar evolution. For her project, Nikki used data spanning ten years from the 0.5 meter Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescope to develop tools that can identify variable stars, estimate their variability periods and timescales, and determine the shape of their brightness variations over time.

Congratulations Nikki, and best of luck in your future!

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