The Department of Astronomy is excited to congratulate Jenny Calahan and Benjamin Setterholm who have both been awarded with Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST) grants. The purpose of this grant is to further the education and training of highly qualified individuals in disciplines related to NASA’s scientific goals. Both Benjamin and Jenny intend to use their FINESST grants to further their research for their doctoral degree.
“I am interested in protoplanetary disks and their chemical environments. Protoplanetary disks are
formed around young stars, and are the location of planet formation. Exploration of these disks naturally brings up questions and eventual insight into the types of planets that can form, how they
form, and how often. In particular, the disk mass and temperature profile are key parameters that will
strongly affect our understanding of both general planet formation and the chemical evolution within
these disks, both of which provide insight into how an Earth-like planet could form. I hope to use my FINESST grant support by utilizing both ALMA observations and my own simulations of a diverse group of protoplanetary disks with the near-term goal of pulling out the 2D temperature profile of each disk, and eventual goal of an accurate mass measurement, which is only now possible with advances simulations and high-resolution ALMA observations. My first year project has been to create a model of TW Hydrae, which is one of the most actively-observed disks out there. By the end of the summer, I will have a model that matches observations, which then allows me to pull out the 2D temperature structure that is hidden from direct observations. I will then have this method to simulate observations which will then allow me to pull out a thermal profile which I can apply to more disks which will lead to a better understanding of the general protoplanetary chemical abundances, mass determinations, and planet forming capabilities.”
“While supported by the FINESST grant, I will be using the new MIRC-X and MYSTIC instruments on the CHARA array to observe near-infrared emission on sub-au scales around nearby young stellar disks. I plan to use these observations to compare the inner disk structures around a small sample of YSO objects to outer disk structures seen with the GPI Large Protoplanetary Disk Survey (which I helped observe earlier during my time here at Michigan) and other observations in the literature. Furthermore, I will develop an upgrade to the MIRC-X instrument, and accompanying data reduction pipeline, to allow for the measurement of polarized light; I will use this new mode to look for signs of scattered light, characteristic of dust in the inner regions of protoplanetary disks. (The discovery or non-detection of dust will provide much needed observational constraints for those working on planetary formation and disk evolution modeling).”