March 24, 2021

Kate Mallory: UMass Amherst Rising Researcher

A physics major investigates star formation in distant galaxies
Kate Mallory ’21, physics with a concentration in astronomy, Commonwealth Honors College

“A great scientist has great determination and curiosity.”

Kate Mallory’s UMass Amherst research will contribute to our understanding of the dawn of the universe. “It’s amazing,” she says, “I feel so lucky to be involved in this project.”

Under the mentorship of Professor of Astronomy Daniela Calzetti, Kate researches star formation. She explains her project: “Star formation occurs in galaxies throughout the universe, and the newly formed stars allow us to trace the evolution of galaxies. Most star formation in the young universe, when it was only one to four billion years old, occurred in dusty galaxies. The young stars heat the dust, which shines in the infrared. The goal of this project is to demonstrate that star formation can be traced in dusty systems using simple computer diagnostics to track infrared radiation.”

Kate is now working with Calzetti and a graduate student on a scientific paper on the project. Their findings may be used to analyze images of dusty galaxies that will be taken by the powerful new James Webb Space Telescope, expected to be launched later in 2021. The Webb, successor to the Hubble, will be the world's premier space science observatory, and will probe the structures and origins of our universe and our place in it.

Kate’s interest in astronomy began in seventh grade. During her first year at UMass, she connected with Professor Calzetti, an internationally renowned astronomer soon to be inducted into the prestigious National Academy of Science. The captain of Kate’s club fencing team, also a physics major, urged her to ask Calzetti to be her advisor for her Commonwealth Honors College thesis. “I was a little hesitant,” Kate says. “The more I learn about Professor Calzetti’s work the more I’m blown away, but from the first meeting she was incredibly supportive and enthusiastic.”

“Kate is a promising researcher who is already rising to the challenge of producing innovative science results,” says Calzetti. “She is poised to grow into a full-fledged scientist.”

Kate is undecided about what kind of scientist she will be; she’s considering both astrophysics and geoscience. “Wherever I go I’ll be using what I’ve learned from Professor Calzetti and remembering her passion to always know more,” she says.