Rachel Lee McClure


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Rachel Lee McClure is a National Research Foundation Graduate Research Fellow pursuing her PhD at the UW -- Madison Astronomy Department in the MadAstroDynamics Group. Her research is an exploration of the formation and maintenance of bars in disk galaxies throughout the universe in collaboration with advisor Prof. Elena D'Onghia. Barred spiral galaxies comprise about half of all galaxies in the local, low-redshift universe. Analytical studies have long investigated the conditions for disk stability and most uniformly rotating thin disks are unstable to bar formation. Observationally, galaxy surveys are only recently reaching the necessary quantity, spectroscopic richness, spatial resolution and distance to provide useful statistical samples for learning about the range of galaxies throughout our universe.

Through her work, McClure has set out to answer three questions within the broader field of the origin and evolution of galaxies to investigate: (1) In which specific disk galaxies do bars form? (2) When do the bars form in those galaxies and how long do the bars exist? and (3) How are the bars supported by or supporting neighboring star formation? Through this research, we plan to understand the formation and evolution of bars by bringing together simulation results with spatially resolved observational surveys of galaxies.

She is dedicated to utilizing her privilege as a co-conspirator through sustainable work towards a more equitable experience for anyone interested in pursuing astronomy.