College of Science

Assistant Professor Matthew Povich Receives Prestigious 5-Year, $650,000 NSF CAREER Award

Prof. Matthew Povich
Assistant Professor Matthew Povich of the Cal Poly Pomona Department of Physics & Astronomy has been awarded a 5-year, $650,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant. The CAREER program offers the NSF's most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty  who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research. Dr. Povich received one of only 6 CAREER grants in Astronomy awarded nationally in 2015, and the only one awarded to a primarily-undergraduate university. Dr. Povich is the first Cal Poly Pomona faculty member to receive this award in the university's history.
Dr. Povich's grant will allow him to integrate his research, teaching, and broader impact activities in a single coherent program. Dr. Povich's research involves undergraduate students in the studies of the formation of stars in our Milky Way Galaxy from X-ray, infrared, and radio observations of young stellar populations in a set of well-characterized massive star-forming regions. These results will bridge the orders-of-magnitude chasm separating empirical star-formation rate "laws" derived from well-resolved, nearby, low-mass molecular clouds from analogous laws widely employed to study unresolved, external galaxies, a fundamental problem in modern astrophysics. 
Dr. Povich will integrate his research with a wide range of education and broader impact activities, including using results from the ground-breaking Milky Way Project, for which Dr. Povich serves as Project Director. The Milky Way Project since 2010 has enlisted, via the internet, tens of thousands of volunteer "citizen scientists" from around the globe to examine infrared images of our Galaxy and classify thousands of objects, compiling the largest catalog of Galactic H II regions (star-forming, ionized nebulae) to date. Cal Poly Pomona students will analyze these data, together with traditional astronomical data.
Another major public outreach initiative funded by this grant will be "BUILD: Bringing the Universe into LA Districts." BUILD will hold science outreach events featuring slideshows and star parties hosted by Cal Poly Pomona students. The star parties will be after-dark gatherings in which the students, their families, and friends view the sky through the Department's 10" and 8" telescopes. BUILD events will be open to the public, and held both on the Cal Poly Pomona campus and at off-campus locations, beginning in the 2015-16 school year.
This grant will create a 3-year postdoctoral research and teaching fellowship, the first such position ever offered in the Department of Physics & Astronomy. The postdoctoral fellow will assist Dr. Povich and his students in the research and teach one course per year. The grant will also fund summer research opportunities for Cal Poly Pomona students, both to work directly with Dr. Povich and as part of the CAMPARE summer research program. Dr. Povich is Associate Director of CAMPARE.