Student Involvement


Greg Ledingham and Kaushik Mitra are graduate students 
working with Professor Jeff Catalano.​​​​


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 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:

  • Stimulating Charge Collection in Small-Pixel CZT Detectors - Jason Tang (H. Krawczynski)
  • The Effects of Earth's Normal Modes on a Torsion Balance Testing Einstein's Equivalence Principle - Cesiley King (R. Cowsik)
  • Data Processing and Analysis for the Snap-shot Digital Array Scanned Interferometer - Jeffrey Wang (W. Smith)

If you are interested in applying for a summer intern 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.

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