Ph.D. Candidate Wins Planetary Astronomy Fellowship That Provides Up to $375,000 in Funding

March 26, 2020

Eileen Gonzalez is one of eight researchers to win a prestigious 51 Pegasi b Fellowship. She is heading to Cornell University as a postdoc.

Eileen Gonzales (Credit: American Museum of Natural History)
Eileen Gonzales (Credit: American Museum of Natural History)

Ph.D. candidate Eileen Gonzales (Physics) was awarded a 51 Pegasi b Fellowship, a postdoctoral award that provides up to $375,000 of support for independent research over three years.

The fellowship, awarded by the Heising-Simons Foundation — a California-based family foundation that awards grants in fields including human rights, education, and clean energy — is named for the first exoplanet discovered orbiting a Sun-like star. 

Gonzales, who studies brown dwarfs, is part of a community of scholars based at the American Museum of Natural History who are affiliated with The Graduate Center and CUNY. She will be hosted at Cornell University for her postdoctoral research.

Eileen-Gonzales-200 indoors with arms folded

“The 51 Pegasi b Fellowship is an amazing opportunity for me to extend upon my current research on brown dwarfs, objects that bridge the gap between stars and planets,” she says. “Particularly I have been using a technique known as atmospheric retrievals, an inverse modeling technique used to determine their atmospheric composition. As a Fellow, I will pivot my expertise into examining directly-imaged exoplanets, which will be ideally supported by working with Nikole Lewis and her group at Cornell.” 

In the next three years, Gonzales plans to work on atmospheric retrievals of young brown dwarfs and directly-imaged exoplanets in an effort to understand fundamental properties of clouds, formation and evolution of these objects, and to best prepare for observations with future facilities. 

She is one of eight fellows receiving the 51 Pegasi b Fellowship this year. The awards provide the opportunity to conduct theoretical, observational, and experimental research in planetary astronomy, and encourage establishing distinction and leadership in the fellows’ fields.

Gonzales is an emerging role model for aspiring African American astronomers. Last year she received the American Astronomical Society’s Beth Brown Memorial Award for Best Oral Presentation at the annual meeting of the National Society of Black Physicists. She is also a mentor to high school students who conduct research projects with her at the American Museum of Natural History.

From the archives: Gonzalez previously spoke to The Graduate Center about her experience as a female of color in astronomy