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Jillian Rastinejad Receives Northwestern Presidential Fellowship

June 26, 2024

Congratulations to Astronomy graduate student, Jillian Rastinejad, for receiving the Northwestern University Presidential Fellowship! 

Jillian leverages world-class telescopes to study astronomical explosions that create heavy elements, including iodine, silver, and gold. Despite their prevalence in our day-to-day lives, these heavy elements did not exist at the Universe’s birth, and their astronomical birthplaces are still not well understood. Jillian’s research has challenged long-standing paradigms of where the heavy elements are born and found that the signatures of heavy elements are more diverse than previously expected. She leads observing programs on premiere telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the twin Gemini Observatories in Chile and Hawai’i, using them to rapidly respond to alerts from NASA satellites pointing to the location of a new explosion. Jillian is also an active member of the Searches After Gravitational-waves Using ARizona Observatories (SAGUARO) collaboration, which looks for the counterpart explosions to gravitational wave events, minuscule ripples in space-time that are only recently being discovered by detectors on Earth.  

Jillian obtained a BA in Physics and Human Rights from the University of Connecticut and was previously a Northwestern Data Science Fellow. She is passionate about astronomy outreach, having created and led a Data Science for the Public Good conference, contributed to astronomy high school mentoring programs, and worked with journalists to bring astronomy news to the public. Jillian's advisor is Wen-fai Fong. 

The Presidential Fellowship is the most prestigious fellowship awarded to graduate students by Northwestern University. It is awarded annually to graduate students who are nominated by their academic programs. A diverse committee of accomplished faculty members from a range of disciplines and fields selected the fellowship recipients from an impressive pool of nominations.
The fellows were chosen for their demonstrated record of outstanding academic achievement, promise as scholars, teachers, and researchers, and the ability to communicate the significance and impact of their research to a broad academic audience.
As Presidential Fellows, this year's recipients will take on a leadership role in the Society of Fellows. The fellows will represent their respective disciplines and the broader graduate community in gatherings and discussions throughout the year. Together, they enhance the interdisciplinary vibrancy of Northwestern University.