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

2015-2016 Academic Year

Fall 2015

PHYS 109 Astronomy w/Lab
Introduction to the modern concepts of the physical nature of the astronomical universe. Historical development of astronomical ideas and origin and evolution of the solar system. A terminal laboratory course for non-science students. Three hours classroom, one two-hour laboratory a week. This course will not count toward major requirements in physics.This course fulfills either the Lab Sciences (Division III) distribution requirement or QR graduation requirement.

PHYS 141 Physics for the Life Sciences
Introductory, non-calculus physics, principally for life science and pre-med students. Topics include mechanics, thermodynamics, acoustics, optics, electricity, magnetism, and modern physics. Three two-hour workshop sessions a week. Because of the similarity in course content, students will not receive graduation credit for both 131 and 141. This course fulfills either the Lab Sciences (Division III) distribution requirement or QR graduation requirement.

PHYS 141 Physics for the Life Sciences
Introductory, non-calculus physics, principally for life science and pre-med students. Topics include mechanics, thermodynamics, acoustics, optics, electricity, magnetism, and modern physics. Three two-hour workshop sessions a week. Because of the similarity in course content, students will not receive graduation credit for both 131 and 141. This course fulfills either the Lab Sciences (Division III) distribution requirement or QR graduation requirement.

PHYS 208 Introductory Astrophysics
An introduction to the physical basis of astronomy, including discussion of the creation and evolution of the solar system, the stars, and galaxies. Astronomical measurement and units, and dynamical systems, such as binary star systems and star clusters, will be discussed. Similar to Physics 108 or Physics 110, but with additional emphasis on mathematical analysis of astrophysical phenomena. Prerequisite: 131 or 141 or permission of instructor. This course fulfills the QR graduation requirement.