Undergraduate Research Program

Daniel Piacitelli

Daniel SmilingMajor: Astronomy & Physics: Comprehensive
Mentor: Iryna Butsky

Contact: piacid4@uw.edu

Current research project: Synthetic Spectroscopy and Cosmic Rays


I’m a third-year studying Astronomy and Physics. My passion for space started young and while it was constant it was not very developed until I started at the University of Washington. I began my Freshman Fall quarter by taking a pre-astronomy major seminar (Pre-MAP) which paired me with my mentor, Iryna Butsky. We began researching simulated Jellyfish galaxies and from there my love for space and, more specifically, extragalactic astronomy flourished. I have continued research with Iryna for 2 years now and in doing so I have narrowed my intended research focus to surveying the Circumgalactic Medium (CGM) and the Cosmic Baryon Cycle using cosmological simulations. Beyond space, I love baking and hiking.

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
The CGM represents a large diffuse cloud of gas that flows out and back into a galaxy. Currently, the CGM is poorly misunderstood, and learning more about it can give us insight into galactic evolution. Since the CGM is diffuse it can be difficult to study with telescopes and other observational equipment so using simulations is how astronomers can test theories–the bulk of my research is looking at simulations and making sure they make physical sense so that we can learn more!


When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
The Pre-MAP program in the Fall quarter of my Freshman year. I got involved because I had an interest in Astronomy and I thought that this would be the best way to see if I truly wanted to go into a career in this field.


What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
Be proactive! Look into your major if they have any programs like the Astronomy Department has. Email professors or talk to advisors to see if they can point you in the right direction.