Astronomers at Iowa State work at the forefront of a variety of research areas including particle astrophysics, extragalactic astronomy, stellar astronomy, the interstellar medium, star formation, and extrasolar planetary systems. Our current research effort is summarized below, and we encourage you to contact individual faculty for more information about their research.
Stellar Astronomy (Willson, Kawaler, Marengo). ISU plays a leading role in the Kepler Asteroseismic Investigation which is responsible for extracting asteroseismic results from the unprecedented time-series photometry provided by NASA's Kepler mission.The group also does research on the physics of stellar mass loss and its influence on stellar evolution. Theoretical stellar evolution studies are complemented by observations of the circumstellar environment using Spitzer, Herschel, and SOFIA.
Exoplanetary Systems (Marengo, Kawaler). The detection and characterization of extrasolar planetary systems is a relatively young area of research in astronomy. ISU astronomers are experts in direct imaging search techniques using Spitzer, the study of debris disks around stars, and the investigation of transiting planets using photometric data from Kepler.
Star Formation & Interstellar Medium (Kerton, Marengo). Recent work in this field at ISU has focused on radio (e.g., JCMT & VLA) and infrared (e.g., Sptizer & NEWFIRM/CTIO) observational studies of star formation associated with massive star-forming regions. The group is also interested in studies of physical processes in the ISM such as the formation of giant molecular clouds and the gas dynamics associated with star formation.
Extragalactic Astronomy (Struck). The ISU group uses both numerical simulations and multiwavelength observations (GALEX, HST, Spitzer) to investigate the structure and evolution of colliding galaxies. Recent research has focused on understanding the origin of induced star formation activity in colliding systems and general studies of spiral waves in galaxy disks.
Particle Astrophysics (Krennrich, Weinstein). Research at ISU in particle astrophysics focuses on gamma-ray astronomy and explores the origin of cosmic rays, AGN astrophysics, dark matter detection, and the EBL. ISU is a member of the VERITAS collaboration. VERITAS is an array of ground-based Cherenkov telescopes used to observe TeV gamma-ray sources. The group at ISU is also involved with the space-based Fermi gamma-ray observatory and is playing a leading role in the development and design of the next generation of ground-based gamma-ray observatories.
Are you interested in pursuing cutting-edge research in astrophysics? We welcome applications from undergraduate students with a background in physics and/or astronomy. Our graduate program is designed to give you a solid foundation in graduate-level physics and astronomy and to allow you to develop your skills as an independent researcher. For more information about the program please contact Dr. Charles Kerton or see the Guide to Graduate Programs in Physics & Astronomy.
Our faculty teach a wide range of courses in Astronomy & Astrophysics from introductory-level survey courses perfect for any ISU student interested in astronomy to advanced astrophysics courses for students planning on Ph.D. level research in their future. We offer a minor in astronomy that, when combined with a physics major, provides the necessary academic preparation for graduate-level studies in astrophysics. The minor is also useful for engineering students seeking employment in space-related fields. For more information about our undergraduate astronomy program please contact Dr. Charles Kerton.