Jillian Paulin ’23 receives Goldwater Scholarship

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The Office of National Fellowships and Scholarships (ONFS) is very pleased to announce that Jillian Paulin ’23 has received the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship. The Goldwater Scholarship Program, one of the oldest and most prestigious national scholarships in the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics in the United States, seeks to identify and support college sophomores and juniors who show exceptional promise of becoming this nation’s next generation of research leaders in these fields. Aside from the stipend and support, the Goldwater Scholarship is an integral steppingstone in Jillian’s scientific career.

At Colgate, Jillian’s research, supervised by Professor Cosmin Ilie, involves indirect detection of dark matter using astrophysical objects. She examines dark matter capture in stars and how the rate of this capture changes when accounting for stellar motion. Recently, she received the terrific news that her first paper, “Analytic Approximations for the Velocity Suppression of Dark Matter Capture,” which she co-authored with Professor Ilie, has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal. She looks forward to continuing to study dark matter using exoplanets in her senior year.

For as long as she can remember, Jillian has been interested in astronomy; it really was like a fairytale for her. Ever since she was little, she knew she wanted to be a scientist. She says that she is very lucky to have been exposed to this field at a young age. While all her relatives have been incredibly important to her upbringing, she received her love of astronomy from her Uncle Richard. As a child, Jillian remembers learning how to find constellations in her backyard with her uncle and using her first telescope. When he passed away in 2016, Jillian inherited his telescope, an 8-inch Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain. Her parents and grandparents have been incredibly supportive of her decision to pursue science as a career as well.

In high school, Jillian began to think more seriously about her future goals. She was very fortunate to have several high school mentors who gave her extremely helpful advice, especially her chemistry teacher. He advised Jillian to find summer programs that would allow her to explore her passion in greater depth, and he went the extra mile and let her stay after school to discuss how quantum mechanics related to chemistry concepts.

Jillian attended Harvard Summer School and took a course for high school students on astrophysics. This was her first time learning a bit about cosmology and dark matter, and Jillian knew this was something about which she wanted to know more. The following year, she attended the Summer@Brown program and took quantum mechanics and the nature of reality. These experiences helped her to immerse herself in more complex physics and confirmed that astrophysics was the correct discipline for her. In her senior year, she was able to take a course on science research, in which she completed an independent project on quasar variability. This was her first time learning how to code and working with large data sets.

As she committed to Colgate, Jillian continued to be fascinated with astrophysics. For her first physics course, Atoms and Waves (PHYS 131), Professor Ilie was her recitation professor. She learned that he studied dark matter and began asking him many questions about his work. Not long after, she applied to work with him during the summer of 2020. She was accepted and eagerly dove into her first research project. Jillian loved this summer research experience and has continued to work with Professor Ilie ever since. This project was the basis of her application for the Goldwater scholarship.

When she isn’t solving astronomical mysteries, Jillian is a musician at heart. She has been playing the viola since she was eight years old and is a violist in the Colgate Chamber Players. At Colgate, Jillian is a member of the Sigma Pi Sigma honor society, a member of StarGate, an Alumni Memorial Scholar, and a tutor for Fundamental Physics II (PHYS 112).

After Colgate, Jillian plans to pursue a PhD in astrophysics. She aspires for a research-based career, possibly as a professor. The Goldwater Scholarship is not only indicative of her many accomplishments as an undergraduate but of her many scientific accomplishments to come.

According to Associate Dean for Fellowship Advising Steve Wright, PhD, “Jillian has worked so hard on her application. She started early and had a vision for this early in the fall.”

For more information about the Goldwater Scholarship and more opportunities, please contact Program Coordinator Anna Brown at ajbrownstaff@colgate.edu to schedule a meeting with our office.