Jillian Paulin ’23

Astronomy/physics; minor in applied mathematics

AMS grants are an amazing opportunity to explore your passions in depth. 

Jillian Paulin ’23 Bethel, Conn.

Describe your experience with the Alumni Memorial Scholars program at Colgate.

The Alumni Memorial Scholars (AMS) program at Colgate is incredible. I met some of my closest friends during our pre-orientation. Some of my favorite AMS events include lunches with visiting speakers and Colgate alumni. This program gave me a unique opportunity to connect with professionals in a variety of fields. The AMS grants are an amazing opportunity to explore your passions in depth. These funds can cover travel expenses, so I will be able to attend conferences or do research in a place where I otherwise would never be able to go. Some important people involved in AMS are Doug Chiarello ’98, assistant dean for administrative advising, and Prof. Rebecca Metzler, AMS faculty director. I’ve had really helpful conversations with both of them, and they have guided me to a number of ideas. The possibilities are endless!

How would you describe your AMS peers?

My AMS peers are very inspiring. I would say that AMS students are inquisitive and ready to learn about anything. They truly embody the term “scholar.” I find these students often to be deep thinkers, who are very open-minded and discussion-oriented.


Are you involved in research? 

I have been working as a research assistant for Prof. Cosmin Ilie since the summer after my first year, studying dark matter and our ability to detect it using stars and planets, which can capture dark matter after colliding with the particles in a star. My contributions to this field include the creation of analytic approximations for how much the dark matter capture rate is suppressed when the object of interest is moving with respect to its surrounding dark matter halo, and I’ve co-authored a paper (which is currently under review) with Prof. Ilie about this.

Research has given me the opportunity to attend several conferences, where I’ve made valuable connections, attended talks by well renowned physicists, and presented my findings. The Colgate environment — especially in the physics and astronomy department — has been immensely supportive and valuable to my development as a scientist in the past few years, and there are so many opportunities available here.

I have not used my AMS grant just yet, but I’m excited to use these funds in a way that can build on the work I’ve already done in dark matter research.

Who is your mentor?

I’ve had several important mentors at Colgate! Of course, my faculty advisers for my major (Prof. Jeff Bary) and minor (Prof. Rob Davis) have been important guides for me, especially when I’m selecting courses and thinking about my future plans. Prof. Ilie is another very important person. He has guided me along my research journey since my first year, and now I think I have a pretty good idea of what I want to study in graduate school. In general, I would say that all of the professors in the physics and astronomy department are people to whom I would go for advice, and I trust them to guide me on my academic journey.

Outside of my major and minor, I am a musician and have been involved in a variety of different ensembles through the Colgate Chamber Players. Our director, Prof. Laura Klugherz, has also been an immensely important mentor for me during my time here. She is also my private teacher for my viola lessons.

I’ve come to know all of these people very well during my time at Colgate, and I’m so grateful for all of their support and guidance.


A portrait of Jillian.

What are your plans for the future?

After Colgate, I’m hoping to pursue a PhD in astrophysics. In the long term, I hope to pursue a research-based career. I think I would love to be a professor because I’ve really enjoyed tutoring in the past, and I like the idea of being able to have a little more control over my research topics.

What advice would you give to future Colgate students who have been selected to be in the AMS program?

You are all so lucky to be a part of this program. Take advantage of every opportunity you can. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your professors (and your dean!) for advice and for help. Perhaps most importantly, never be afraid to ask questions, because that is the whole point of learning. Aim for the stars, and delve into whatever subject sparks your passion. A big reason that I was able to pursue research in dark matter was because I showed my professors that I was genuinely interested and invested in the subject. If you are undecided about your major, now is the time to explore and ask questions. Sign up for any class you feel drawn to during your first year or so, and ask lots of questions about what you find the most interesting.

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