My Former Mentors

I have stood on the shoulders of giants to get where I am today:

  • Dr. Richard A. Wade
    (2011-2013, Penn State)

    worked together on various hot subdwarf projects, including a radial velocity survey of hot subdwarfs with main sequence companions, a search for hot subdwarfs around F stars, and various other projects.

  • Dr. J. Christopher Clemens
    (2006-2011, UNC)

    my PhD advisor; worked together on commissioning the Goodman spectrograph on the SOAR telescope, white dwarf research projects, and studies of hot subdwarfs; introduced me to astronomical instrumentation and taught me how to conduct my own scientific research and publish papers.

  • Dr. Patrick Lestrade
    (2002-2006, Miss. State. Univ)

    introduced me to research for the first time as a freshman physics major; worked together on characterizing the gamma-ray background from the HETE-2 satellite. Together, we discovered the Ecuador Anomaly, a dip in the Earth’s magnetic field similar to the South Atlantic Anomaly. Our discovery was later “scooped” by another research group! I was hooked on astronomical research after this moment.

  • Mr. Powell
    (2000-2002, St. Martin High School)

    taught me astronomy and physics in high school; check out his website.

Current Group Members

Thomas Boudreaux
Physics Major - freshman - member since 2015

Thomas is from Burke, VA. His first experience doing astronomy research took place during his senior year of high school when he traveled to UNC-Chapel Hill to help Barlow collect data on binary systems and hypervelocity stars with the 4-m SOAR telescope in Chile. He is currently working with Paddy in PHY 2001 to follow-up on interesting binaries found during the K2 mission. One of their targets shows hints of a relativistic beaming effect predicted by Einstein! Thomas also helps analyze archived data on sdB+F/G/K binaries from the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) and has also begun a new program to monitor sdB+F/G/K binaries in the Southern Hemisphere using SMARTS/CHIRON.

Rodrigo Catalan
Physics & Biology Major - senior - member since 2015

During the inaugural SuRPS program at HPU, Rodrigo used the SMARTS 1.5-m/CHIRON to monitor the velocities of the stars in the eclipsing binary system HD 318015. He also modeled the light curve using Binary Maker. By combining the results of his photometric and spectroscopic analyses, he was able to determine nearly all properties describing the two stars. His results imply HD 318018 is one of the most luminous binaries in the Galaxy! Rodrigo is now helping out with the Eclipsing Reflection Effect Binaries from the OGLE Survey (EREBOS) project.

Paddy Clancy
Physics Major - freshman - member since 2015

Equally comfortable doing improv comedy, peforming in theater productions, and contemplating the mysteries of the universe, Paddy joined the HPU astrophysics group in 2015 doing work for Dr. Fiser's PHY 2001 research class. Paddy, along with Thomas, will lead an investigation of interesting eclipsing binaries found by NASA's K2 mission. The systems under study show the presence of ellipsoidal modulations, along with hints of a relativistic Doppler boosting effect. He will use the CHIRON spectrograph on the 1.5-m SMARTS telescope in Chile to determine the orbital velocities of the stars and shed light on the nature of these systems.

Eugene Filik
Physics Major - junior - member since 2014

The most senior member of the HPU astronomy research group, Eugene hails from New Jersey and has an obsession with spherical cacti (see image). Eugene first worked with Barlow on a project for Dr. Fiser's PHY 2001 class that focused on determining the binary fraction of helium-rich hot subdwarfs. He used SMARTS 1.5-m/CHIRON to try and detect orbital reflex motion of the hot subdwarfs, but no binaries were found. He is now attempting to build a simple optical spectrograph using only basic electronics components and a Raspberry Pi for motor control (he's using a photoresistor as a single-pixel detector and using a capacitor's discharge time as a metric for brightness, for crying out loud!). Eugene also recently (Fall 2015) returned from an observing run on the SMARTS 0.9-m in Chile, during which he helped discover a new pulstaing white dwarf.

Ryan Hegedus
Physics Major - junior - member since 2016

Ryan is originally from North Carolina and joined the astrophysics research group in March 2016 upon his acceptance to HPU's summer research program, SuRPS. Over the next few months, Ryan will work with Barlow on the Eclipsing Reflection Effect Binaries from the OGLE Survey (EREBOS) project, which focuses on studying the lowest-mass companions to hot subdwarf stars. Ryan will use spectroscopic and photometric data from the SOAR telescope to determine the orbital velocities in these HW Vir systems and calculate the companion masses.

Alan Vasquez
Physics Major - sophomore - member since 2015

Alan, who hails from Chile, started doing astronomy research in the summer of 2015 as part of HPU's inaugural Summer Research Program in the Sciences (SuRPS). As part of that program, he collected data on the pulsating sdB star CS 1246 using the SKYNET telescopes and created light curves of the target using Python code he wrote. The pulsational amplitudes he found show that CS 1246 has weakened significantly as a pulsator. Moreover, he found that the amplitude decrease mimics that of a damped harmonic oscillator! Once he and Barlow collect follow-up observations in the spring, they will write and submit a paper on this interesting object to the Astrophysical journal. Alan also recently (Fall 2015) returned from an observing run on the SMARTS 0.9-m in Chile, during which he helped discover a new pulstaing white dwarf.

Past Group Members

HPU Physics Majors:



Stephen Vultaggio
2015 Physics graduate - research conducted 2013-2015

Stephen worked with Barlow to conduct a photometric survey with the 0.4-m PROMPT telescopes in Chile to look for new rapidly-pulsating hot subdwarf B (sdB) stars. Every couple of days, he obtained time-series photometry of another sdB star with PROMPT and computed a Fourier transform of the data in order to look for small-amplitude variations in the light output from the star. Each new pulsating sdB star discovered allows the tools of asteroseismology to be applied to the hot subdwarfs in order to determine their mass, size, and overall structure. Although he only looked for a few months, he discovered one new pulsating star!!!



Monitoring Comet ISONComet ISON
Aaron Marlowe and Sam Gordon - freshmen

Aaron and Sam monitored the progress of Comet ISON as it approached the Sun in November 2014. They used the PROMPT telescopes to measure the comet's position day by day. These measurements will allow them to determine the orbit of the comet. The colored photo at left was constructed from several black-and-white images they obtained using the robotic PROMPT telescopes in Chile.



Post-Baccalaureate Students:


Ms. Sandra E. Liss

worked on measuring orbital periods for hot subdwarf stars with main sequence companions and reduced years of Hobby-Eberly Telescope spectroscopic data in the process. She is now a second-year graduate student in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Virginia. Check out her publications here.

High School Students:


Mr. Arjun Raghavan

measured the amplitudes of known pulsating hot subdwarf stars and detected amplitude changes in many of them. For his work, he was recognized in the Intel Science and Engineering Fair and the Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Engineering. He is currently a Robertson Scholar at Duke and UNC. Check out WNCN's "This Kid Rocks!" segment on him.
Image Credit: SPIE