Valpo Awarded National Science Foundation Grant to Conduct Astronomical Research

Sept. 14, 2021 – Valparaiso, Indiana – Valparaiso University has received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct research related to exploding white dwarf stars, known as type 1a supernovae. The award, totaling $217,400, will fund a three-year project led by Todd Hillwig, Ph.D., professor of physics and astronomy.

The grant will provide opportunities for undergraduate students to complete research during the summer and academic year. Students will also be able to attend national conferences to interact with researchers and faculty from other institutions and learn about other projects in their field of interest.

“As astronomy researchers, our primary goal is to simply understand the universe better,” Hillwig said. “Cultures have always looked to the stars and planets for answers, and our research allows us to understand the universe better and fuel the human drive of knowing what’s around us.”

Hillwig’s research will focus on how star systems change over time to result in phenomena like type 1a supernovae. The project will help astronomers understand astronomical objects, planet formation and how particles spread out throughout the galaxy.

“Undergraduate research is a hallmark of a Valparaiso University education,” said Jon T. Kilpinen ’88, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “The best way for our students to decipher their paths and prepare for future careers is by conducting meaningful work in their fields with outstanding faculty members like Professor Hillwig.”

The funding will also support Valpo’s membership in the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy (SARA). Students will make remote observations using telescopes in Chile and the Canary Islands and will make on-site observations at the SARA telescope in Arizona.