Melissa McClure

NSF Fellowship | Circumstellar Particles | Advisor: Nuria Calvet

PhD Research: Melissa McClure is looking at the clouds and early disks around young stars to gain insight into how diffuse dust grains crystallize and lump together — ultimately creating conditions for planets to form. She is looking at both the physical changes in the particles — how they go from amorphous dust grains to highly structured silicate crystals — and also the transport mechanisms — how these crystals are carried to the outer reaches of the disk. McClure is taking advantage of the crystals’ unique spectral signatures to explore their location, density, and movement within the disk. She is using Spitzer data to determine the composition of the disks’ planet-forming regions; Herschel data to examine their outer regions; and Magellan data to assess stellar parameters and the innermost disk edge. Using models co-developed by her advisor, McClure hopes to further clarify where in these disks terrestrial planets are likely to form.

Why Michigan Astronomy?

Faculty Expertise: “I came to U-M because of the caliber of the faculty. I was especially interested in the star-formation group. There’s Nuria, my advisor, who’s an expert in modeling; John Monnier, who’s a fantastic instrumentalist; Ted Bergin, who does amazing things in astrochemistry; and Lee Hartmann, who spans observation and theory, and wrote one of the leading books on the subject. We’re in a race to publish with groups from Caltech, Harvard CfA, and Europe—it’s truly the cutting edge of things.”