Student Involvement


Greg Ledingham and Kaushik Mitra working in the lab of Professor Jeff Catalano.​​​​

Graduate Students

One of the greatest strengths of the McDonnell Center is the vast scope of research opportunities available to the graduate students. From the very beginning of joining the program at Washington University, the students are encouraged to join a research group.

Undergraduate Students

Undergraduate students that may be considering graduate school are encouraged to participate in the Summer Intern Program. Faculty members of the McDonnell Center guide the student on a specific project during the summer. The hours and summer term are flexible and the scope of research topics is very broad.

Recent research topics have included:

  • Rubidium isotopic composition of Mars: implication for the origin of volatile loss during planetary accretion - Judy Zhang (Kun Wang) - Judy presented her research at the 2022 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference!
  • Cryogenic Testbed Commissioning for Cosmic Microwave Background Telescopes - Angelina Minocha (Johanna Nagy)
  • Machine Learning Techniques to Examine Cosmological Magnetic Field Helicity - Paul Paller (Francesc Ferrer)

If you are interested in applying for a summer research position, please contact McDonnell Center faculty members or the Director.

Student Highlight

Quin Abarr

My graduate research at WashU has focused on X-rays from compact objects, such as black holes and neutron stars. Using a simulation package originated by my advisor, Henric Krawczynski, I’ve been able to simulate the X-ray emission from black holes with warped accretion disks around them. Since we use X-ray emission to measure properties of black holes, such as how fast they are spinning, my goal with this work is to improve the accuracy of these measurements and our knowledge of black hole populations. I was fortunate to be able to present this work at conferences in the winter of 2019.

I have also had the opportunity to work on the experimental side of X-ray astronomy, helping to construct, test, and deploy the X-ray polarimeter X-Calibur. The polarization of X-rays can tell us about the geometry of the source, and so in the winter of 2018 I travelled with a group of other graduate students, engineers, and professors to Antarctica to launch X-Calibur on a stratospheric balloon. During its three day long flight, X-Calibur made the first measurement of the polarization of X-rays from the neutron star GX 301-2.

Aside from the opportunity to visit one of the remote places on Earth, preparing X-Calibur for launch was invaluable to my practical understanding of how experimental astrophysics actually gets done, with the researchers, engineers, ballooning team, and support staff all working together to address all the difficulties, expected and unexpected, of operating a large experiment.

All of these experiences have been made possible by the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences by supporting the astrophysics research done in the Physics department, including the proof of concept for X-Calibur, as well as supporting me on an individual level through a fellowship and travel support.

Applications for graduate school are submitted to the Department of Physics or the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

Recent Graduates

John Christian (2023)

Dawson Huth (2023)

Andrew West (2023)

Wolfgang Zober (2023)

Andrea Goltz (2022)

Robert Joe Kupper (2022)

Kaushik Mitra (2022)

Zhen Tian (2022)

Kainen Utt (2022)

Quin Abarr (2021)

Ben Groebe (2021)

Zach Hughes (2021)

Nathan Walsh (2021)

Andrea Goltz, McDonnell Center Fellow, 2021

Garv Chauhan, 2021

Zhen Tian, 2021

Kaushik Mitra, 2021

Madison Hughes, 2021

Nathan Walsh, 2020

Zachary Hughes, 2020

Yicong Sui, 2020

Quincy Abarr, 2020

Benjamin P. Groebe, 2020

Steven P. Harris, 2020

Scott Beeler, McDonnell Center Fellow, 2019

Michael Bouchard, 2019 

Roger Bryant, McDonnell Center Fellow, 2019

Brendan Haas, 2019

Timothy Haan, Jr., 2019

Maneesh Jeyakumar, 2019

Augusto Medeiros Da Rosa, 2019

Yiyang Zhang, 2019

Recent Dissertation Topics

Image of Erin Barillier

This community is dedicated to understanding the fabric of the universe, and I'm proud to be a part of the Physics community at WashU.

―Erin BarillierBaines Family Planetary Science Scholarship recipient