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Ossining High School Senior Recognized For Astrophysics Research

Ossining High School Senior Cen Chen has received an Acorda Scientific Excellence Award for her research on an alternative method for measuring activity in distant galaxies.
Ossining High School Senior Cen Chen has received an Acorda Scientific Excellence Award for her research on an alternative method for measuring activity in distant galaxies. Photo Credit: Contributed

OSSINING, N.Y. -- Ossining High School senior Cen Chen has received an Acorda Scientific Excellence Award for her research on an alternative method for measuring activity in distant galaxies.

The award recognizes students in Westchester and Putnam counties and in Fairfield County, Conn., who are performing “highly significant and innovative scientific, technical, engineering and mathematical (STEM) research," said the announcement.

The award is sponsored by Acorda Therapeutics Inc., a biotechnology company based in Ardsley.

One Acorda Award winner is selected each week during the school year, and the student is interviewed on the Lisa Wexler Radio Show.

The show airs Saturdays on AM 1490 WGCH.

A date has not been scheduled yet for Cen’s interview to air, said the release.

The title of Cen’s research is “Elucidating Galactic Kinematics: Two Analytic Models for Stellar and Gaseous Velocity Dispersions.”

In galactic physics, the interactions among components in a bulge – the central region of a galaxy -- reflect the degree of activity.

Stellar velocity dispersion – the statistical spread of velocities about the mean velocity of stars – is one of the most prominent components in a bulge and has been used for purposes such as estimating the central black hole mass.

But it is often difficult to measure in distant galaxies because of interference from irrelevant radiations.

Cen has researched the use of gaseous velocity dispersions as a secondary proxy for stellar velocity dispersion to improve the accuracy of measurements.

“Overall, this research put forth models that employ gaseous velocity dispersions to effectively replace stellar velocity dispersions and further our understanding of the formation and evolution mechanism of galaxies,” Cen said in a summary of her work.

Cen, a student in OHS’ Science Research program, said she used a sample of 31,351 galaxies collected from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey in her research, the release said.

Her mentor on the project is Michael Strauss, professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University.

She was able to conduct her research at home during the school year because the data is available online and visited Dr. Strauss during the summers.

Cen will attend Northeastern University in Boston this fall and plans to obtain a combined degree in math and business.

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