Faculty Profile

Catrina Hamilton-Drager

Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy (2006)

Contact Information

hamiltoc@dickinson.edu

Tome Scientific Building Room 212
717.254.8935

Bio

Professor Hamilton-Drager's research focuses mainly on young stars in the process of forming. She has examined the rotation rates of stars in clusters of different ages to trace the evolution of angular momentum. Stars naturally spin up as they contract while forming (like the ice skater who pulls in her arms). However, some stars are observed to spin fast (P < 2 days), while some spin slowly (3 < P < 14 days). Her research is exploring the interaction of the star's magnetic field and its circumstellar disk, or the material out of which planets will eventually form. Looking at stars in clusters of varying ages (1, 3, 5, 10 million years) allows one to assess exactly how long it takes for stars spin up and thereby infers a possible length of time associated with planet formation. As the disks dissipate, due to planet formation or other factors (high energy winds from nearby hot stars), the stars are freed and allowed to spin up. Professor Hamilton-Drager is probably best known for her pioneering work on the young stellar system known as KH 15D. The KH 15D system is a binary system surrounded by a circumbinary ring. Its light output has been evolving since ~1960 as a result of the gradual precession of the ring in front of the orbit of the binary. The ring acts as a natural coronagraph and provides us with information about the close environment of one of the stars. Her spectral observations show that star A's magnetosphere varies with time, sometimes compact (~1 stellar radius), while at other times, substantially larger (~2 stellar radii or more). There is also evidence for enhanced accretion following periastron passage (generally larger flux values during egress than ingress) as predicted by the models of gas flow from a circumbinary disk through a gap to the binary.

Education

  • B.A., Mount Holyoke College, 1991
  • M.S., Arizona State University, 1994
  • Ph.D., Wesleyan University, 2003

2018-2019 Academic Year

Fall 2018

ASTR 306 Observational Techniques
Cross-listed with PHYS 306-01.This course has been designed to give students an introduction to current observational techniques used to study variable stars. Students will make observations with the Dickinson College 24-inch telescope and then analyze those data using multiple techniques. An introduction to IRAF, AstroImageJ, and Python will provide the students with the tools needed to complete their analysis. Other topics may include astronomical spectroscopy, spectral classification, and spectrometer design.

PHYS 306 Observational Techniques
Cross-listed with ASTR 306-01.This course has been designed to give students an introduction to current observational techniques used to study variable stars. Students will make observations with the Dickinson College 24-inch telescope and then analyze those data using multiple techniques. An introduction to IRAF, AstroImageJ, and Python will provide the students with the tools needed to complete their analysis. Other topics may include astronomical spectroscopy, spectral classification, and spectrometer design.

PHYS 392 Junior Seminar
This course revolves around student reports and discussions on several topics in contemporary physics. Emphasis is on the development of bibliographic skill, seminar presentation and report writing techniques as well as increasing the breadth and depth of the student's knowledge of recent research. Preparation for senior research and life after Dickinson will also be topics of discussion. Prerequisite: Physics major junior status. One-half course credit.

Spring 2019

PHYS 132 Introductory Physics
An introduction to basic physics topics using the workshop method. This method combines inquiry-based cooperative learning with the comprehensive use of computer tools for data acquisition, data analysis and mathematical modeling. Topics in thermodynamics, electricity, electronics and magnetism are covered. Additional topics in chaos or nuclear radiation are introduced. Basic calculus concepts are used throughout the course. Recommended for physical science, mathematics, and pre-engineering students and for biology majors preparing for graduate study. Three two-hour sessions per week. (Students enrolled in Physics 132 who have completed Mathematics 170 are encouraged to continue their mathematics preparation while taking physics by enrolling in Mathematics 171.) Because of the similarity in course content, students will not receive graduation credit for both 132 and 142. Prerequisite: 131 and completion of, or concurrent enrollment in MATH 170.