Corey McAllister, a UNC Asheville sophomore from Kannapolis, N.C., has been named the recipient of the Astronomy Club of Asheville-Carolyn Keefe Scholarship, which provides $2,000 to be applied to the cost of attending UNC Asheville for the academic year, and a one-year membership in the Astronomy Club of Asheville. “The club extends our sincere congratulations to Corey on being selected as the scholarship recipient, and we hope this distinction will support him in pursuing his educational goals,” said Astronomy Club of Asheville President Dominic Lesnar.
McAllister, a physics major, began conducting undergraduate research in astronomy his very first year at UNC Asheville, working with Research Scientist David Wake. “We work on galaxy evolution – that’s his field of expertise.” said McAllister. “My current project involves rotation of galaxies in clusters – galaxy kinematics. They affect each other gravitationally and studying how galaxies interact with each other gives you clues about that relationship and how they work together in that system.
“We use data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescopes at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico – it’s part of a project to map the observable universe,” said McAllister. “It does involve computer programming and I came in with no programming experience at all but it’s actually been pretty simple. Dr. Wake just gave me some resources and I set about learning what I needed to do this.”
As part of one of his astronomy classes, McAllister also is involved in research that uses Lookout Observatory on UNC Asheville’s campus, where he also works as a docent. “It’s pretty great,” he says. “My favorite part of the job is when there are people who’ve never looked through a telescope before. I can show them planets and galaxies and explain what’s going on, and some people are really amazed because they’ve never seen anything like it, so it’s a really wonderful feeling. To be able to teach and do research would be the best job I could imagine, so while there are many possible paths ahead, becoming a professor is what I’m shooting for.”
The Astronomy Club of Asheville-Carolyn Keefe Scholarship is named in honor of the late Carolyn Keefe, who was professor emeritus of English at Lindsey Wilson College and an enthusiastic Astronomy Club member. The Astronomy Club of Asheville is a nonprofit educational organization that is open to visitors and is dedicated to helping people of all ages understand and enjoy astronomy at all levels of interest.
Lookout Observatory at UNC Asheville, built and operated in partnership by the university and the club, offers free monthly guided stargazing sessions for the public. For more information, visit lookoutobservatory.unca.edu or contact Brian Hart in the Department of Physics, firstname.lastname@example.org or 828.251.6442.