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Daniel Piacitelli

Daniel Smiling

Major: Astronomy & Physics: Comprehensive

Mentor: Iryna Butsky


Current research project: Synthetic Spectroscopy and Cosmic Rays

I’m a fourth-year student studying Astronomy and Physics. My passion for space started young and, while it was consistent, it was not very developed until I started at the University of Washington. I began my Freshman year 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 continued research with Iryna for 2 years surveying the theoretical Circumgalactic Medium (CGM) and the Cosmic Baryon Cycle using cosmological simulations. Now, I am conducting research with Professor Matthew McQuinn working to estimate CGM emission in various metal spectral lines. Beyond space, I love baking and hiking.

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
The CGM is 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 so diffuse, absorption studies (which focus on observing the light that the CGM) have been the main way astronomers have studied the CGM. In my current project, we are working to study the light that the CGM will emit which represents a whole new regime to learn more about the CGM!

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.