WKU student's work puts him in star realm

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Gott receives Chambliss award for astronomical research

By Kelly Cantrall

A local college student’s research on the brightness of a supernova led him to become a star at a recent astronomy conference.

Andrew Gott, a physics major from Elizabethtown set to graduate in May from Western Kentucky University, received a Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Student Award at the American Astronomical Society’s 219th semiannual meeting last month in Austin, Texas.

The Chambliss award was given to seven students out of the hundreds of undergraduates who prepared presentations for the conference. Another student at Western received a medal, as did three students from Harvard University.

Gott created a poster presentation detailing his charting of the brightness of a supernova discovered in August, he said.

This supernova is the closest and brightest one found in recent years, so Gott and his adviser Lou Strolger plotted the brightness daily on a chart to measure the fluctuation in its intensity.

Gott and Strolger have been studying supernovas for four years and began looking at this one once it was discovered in the summer, Gott said.

Gott’s interest in astronomy startedwhile attending space camp in the third grade. He began research with Strolger while enrolled in the Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science at Western.

Gott said he enjoyed working on the project because it was creating new results, not like high school science experiments that replicate what’s been done before.

“It’s a lot of fun to produce real science,” he said.

When Gott brought his presentation to the conference, the award wasn’t on his radar.

“Going in, I didn’t think about it at all,” he said.

He answered a lot of questions as others walked by his poster and he thinks his casual attitude about it helped him do well when in consideration for the award.

He learned later he had won after Strolger emailed him. He said he was very surprised and happy that Western was in the conversation along with Ivy League institutions.

“It’s very exciting to give WKU the recognition I think it really deserves,” he said.

Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or kcantrall@thenewsenterprise.com.