Dunham reaches for the stars and receives Hagan Young Scholar/Artist Award
State University of New York at Fredonia Department of Physics Assistant Professor Michael Dunham, whose research and scholarship interests are in observational studies of star and planet formation, is the recipient of the 2020 William T. and Charlotte N. Hagan Young Scholar/Artist Award.
In his academic work, Dr. Dunham detects, characterizes and studies stellar systems in the youngest stages of formation, when they are still actively gaining mass from their surroundings and either not yet forming, or just beginning to form, planets.
Dunham was the unanimous choice of the Kasling Memorial Lecture Committee, according to its chair, Department of Computer and Information Sciences Professor Junaid Zubairi. “We looked at his research credentials and his research impact factor is quite strong. He has been publishing in top journals in his field and his research has been cited over 4,700 times,” Dr. Zubairi said.
Over the last 15 years, Dunham has published a total of 110 refereed coauthor articles – including 44 since arriving at Fredonia four years ago – that have appeared in the top tier of astronomy journals. Dunham has also been invited to give 13 conference talks on four different continents and 16 colloquium/seminar presentations at various universities and astronomy institutes.
Dunham will be recognized for receiving the Hagan award at the Kasling Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Department of English Professor Birger Vanwesenbeeck this fall in Rosch Recital Hall.
The annual award, established through the Fredonia College Foundation, recognizes an individual who has made outstanding recent achievements in research or creativity and is named in honor of late Dr. William T. “Tom” Hagan, an eminent scholar who specialized Native American history, who was a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor and Fredonia emeriti.
Since joining Fredonia in 2016, Dunham has become widely known on campus and in the surrounding community as the unofficial director of the Science Center’s rooftop observatory. In that role, Dunham leads outreach that includes regular public astronomy nights and private group viewings and supervises student research projects using the telescope and trains students to operate the telescope.
Dunham’s specific interests are centered on using a combination of telescopic observations and computer modeling to understand how stars gain their mass through the interplay of multiple, related physical processes.
“One of the major unsolved problems in stellar astrophysics is understanding why the distribution of stellar masses is invariant throughout the universe, and one of the key challenges to making progress in this area is the fact that we still don’t fully understand why a single star forms with the mass it has,” Dunham explained. “My research is focused on revealing how multiple physical processes come together to set the masses of stars.”
Courses that Dunham has taught at Fredonia include College Physics I and II, University Physics I and II, Thermodynamics, Optics, Astrophysics and Introduction to Astronomy. He has also directed laboratories in physics courses.
Dunham previously served as a submillimeter Array Postdoctoral Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and was also a postdoctoral associate at Yale University.
Dunham has a Ph.D. and M.A., both in Astronomy, from the University of Texas at Austin, and a B.S. in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Rochester.