Undergraduate Astrophysics student publishes a lead-author scientific paper

By Maroon & White | fall 2019

An exciting milestone usually accomplished by graduate students has been achieved by Sophia Waddell, a third-year undergraduate student in Astrophysics. Waddell is the lead author of a scientific paper with the Royal Astronomical Society. After coming up with the idea for the paper in her High Energy Astrophysics course, she wrote the paper and worked with Dr. Luigi Gallo on a series of revisions. Waddell’s paper, titled “Multi-epoch X-ray spectral analysis of the narrow-line Seyfert 1 galaxy Mrk 478”, explores X-ray data from a supermassive black hole (SMBH) called Mrk 478. “This black hole in particular is called an active galactic nucleus (AGN), which means that it is actively sucking in material, forming an accretion disk around the black hole,” explained Waddell.  “The material located closest to the black hole gets so hot, that rather than radiating optical light (light our eyes can see), it emits high-energy X-rays. Using special space-based observatories, we can study the X-rays coming from active black holes, which can tell us about the structure and properties of the innermost regions.”

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