Western Michigan University physics professors Dr. Manuel Bautista and Dr. Thomas Gorczyca joined colleagues from the United States, Belgium, Germany, Sweden and Venezuela to earn a National Science Foundation grant of $602,000 in astrophysics. The project, "From Stars to Active Galactic Nuclei. Phototionization, Photoexcitation, Opacities, and Spectra of Low Ionization Fe-peak Species" will be led by Dr. Bautista.
The project was initiated when Bautista researched the opacities and spectra of iron-like species. He discovered two problems—it is difficult to get an accurate representation of Fe II (singly ionized iron) emission using current atomic physics methods and once the reliable and complete representations were created, they needed to be made into complex spectral models for astronomical sources. Enlisting the help of researchers from NASA, the University of Mons (Belgium), the Lund Observatory (Sweden), the Max Planck Institute (Germany) and the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research, Bautista and Gorczyca presented a compelling proposal to the NSF. With the help of the nine original members of the research team, Bautista and Gorczyca will also select a post-doctorate WMU student, a WMU graduate student and several WMU undergraduate students to be a part of this exciting and innovative astrophysics project. The team will have three years to conduct their research and present their findings by way of annual reports and papers for scientific journals.