Kristina Kaldon Receives USRA Education Award
L-R: Donald Schneider, professor and head of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics; John Nousek, professor of astronomy and astrophysics, and director of the NASA Swift Satellite Mission Operations Center; Kristina Kaldon; and Kevin Luhman
Kristina Kaldon, a senior majoring in astronomy and astrophysics, recently received the USRA Education Award. The USRA Scholarship Program provides college scholarships to students interested in pursuing careers in the physical sciences or engineering with an emphasis on space research or space science education. Kaldon is the second student from Penn State to receive the award.
Kaldon conducts research with Dr. Kevin Luhman, professor of astronomy and astrophyics, in the field of infrared astronomy. This research is conducted using images from the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). Kaldon helps Luhman search for binary brown dwarf companions to nearby stars with defined proper motions using different epoch images (anywhere from months to years apart) which are aligned to see if any surrounding stars have the same movement across the sky as the primary star (usually a white dwarf). Kaldon also completed an internship at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program at the Arecibo Observatory in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. “My experience at the Observatory was easily the best time of my life and I am so happy I was able to gain hands-on experience and experience the Puerto Rico culture,” she said.
Kaldon is involved in six clubs and organizations at Penn State, and she has held many leadership roles in her organizations. In addition to being involved in Astronomy Club, Astronomy Department Outreach, Three Broomsticks, and the Student Red Cross Club, Kaldon has served as historian for Science LionPride and is currently president of the Society of Physics Students. Kaldon’s leadership experience was cited by the USRA as a reason she stood out above other applicants for the scholarship.