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Four Astronomy Undergraduates Receive Lawrence W. Hantel Endowed Fellowship

MSU astronomy undergraduates Wasundara Athukoralalage, Lauren McDermott, Miranda Pikus, and Jennifer Rodriguez, were all awarded the Lawrence W. Hantel Endowed Fellowship in recognition of their participation in long-term research programs at MSU.

The Lawrence W. Hantel Endowed Fellowship provides talented undergraduate students the opportunity to participate in long-term research programs that will augment their preparation for graduate school and the work environment. The goal is for students to develop their ability to identify a problem, to plan and execute a program to solve the problem, and last but not least, to write up the results in a clear, understandable manner. These skills will help awardees achieve their goals in graduate school and on the job. The students will be recognized at the annual department awards ceremony in April.

Wasundara Athukoralalage

Wasundara Athukoralalage (MSU ‘23) works with Prof. Stephen Zepf and Dr. Kristen Dage studying X-ray observations of ultraluminous X-ray sources in extragalactic globular clusters. She also works with Dr. Ed Brown on modeling the thermal electron conductivity on the outer crust of neutron stars. In September 2020, she was also admitted into the Wielenga Scholars Program, which provides funding to 2nd-year Honors College students seeking a research opportunity that will expand their learning beyond the classroom. The program is named for its generous supporter, Honors College alumnus Thomas Wielenga '78, and his wife Sue.

Lauren McDermott
Lauren McDermott

Lauren McDermott (MSU ‘22) has been working with Dr. Ryan Urquhart, doing research on constraining the luminosity of the radio and X-ray emission of an intermediate-mass black hole in a nearby galaxy, and will be continuing on over the summer to write up her results for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. 

Miranda Pikus
Miranda Pikus



Miranda Pikus (MSU ‘23) works with Dr. Kendall Mahn on highly energetic particles. Her recent collaboration with another MSU undergraduate, Izzy Ginnett is analyzing particle tracks and distortions in the protoDUNE detector at CERN. She was recently accepted into the NSF REU program at Louisiana State University.

Jennifer Rodriguez
Jennifer Rodriguez

Jennifer Rodriguez (MSU ‘22) was co-mentored by Dr. Ryan Urquhart and Teresa Panurach, analyzing the multi-wavelength behavior of black hole X-ray binary, GS 2000+25. Her results have been published in a peer-reviewed paper in the Astrophysical Journal, and she presented her research at the 2020 conference  “Chandra Frontiers in Time-Domain Science.” She was admitted as a CalTech WAVE Fellow for summer of 2021 to work with Dr. Fiona Harrison and Dr. Javier Garcia on analyzing NuSTAR, Swift XRT, and Integral observations of a black hole.

Additionally, Lauren McDermott, Miranda Pikus, and Jennifer Rodriguez are Charles Drew Science Scholars. The Charles Drew Science Scholars Program supports the all-around successful college experience of its students. The program provides academic assistance and support for academically talented undergraduate students pursuing degrees in the College of Natural Science (NatSci) at Michigan State University. These degrees include the biological sciences, physical sciences, and mathematics. Program emphasis has been on students from groups historically underrepresented in science and mathematics fields. Drew Scholars is structured around programmatic components that are designed to help freshman and sophomore students smoothly transition to college and establish a strong foundation for continued academic success and career preparation.