The primary goal of my work over recent years has been to determine how our Galaxy (the Milky Way) formed. The kinematics (motions within the Galaxy), spatial distribution, and chemical composition of the stars in our Galaxy have "locked in" the memory of the properties of the gas clouds which formed them. By selecting RR Lyrae stars (radially pulsating variable stars which are also found on the "horizontal branches" of globular clusters) to study, I ensure that I am looking at stars that were born at least 10-12 billion years ago, when the Galaxy itself was forming.
My current focus is on four samples of RR Lyrae stars, each in a different region of the Galaxy. By comparing the properties of the stars in different regions, I hope to place more constraints on pictures of how our Galaxy formed. The regions I am studying are:
Since moving to BGSU, I have also used our 0.5-m telescope, along with other small-aperture telescopes around the world, to measure the brightness and color of several types of variable stars including RR Lyrae and Long-Period Variables. This work has engaged many BGSU undergraduate and Masters students in astronomical research.