Since she can remember, Sophia Waddell knew she liked math and space. Still, she probably wouldn’t have guessed she’d be spending her days using x-ray satellites to monitor supermassive black holes at the heart of the universe’s galaxies.
A passionate astrophysics major at St. Mary’s University, Sophia is inspired by her community of peers and the encouragement of her advisor Dr. Luigi Gallo.
Sophia has attended two Science Atlantic conferences during her undergraduate career. In 2018 she received the Tindall/Steintz Award in Research and this year took home the Science Atlantic Communication Award.
“I study active galactic nuclei. Basically, we believe there are supermassive black holes at the centre of every galaxy and some of these are active, meaning they are taking in material,” explained Waddell.
“X-Ray satellites allow us to study the most extreme environments in the universe… and we should know about where we live!”
Using x-ray satellites sent into orbit by the likes of NASA, Sophia monitors and measures the way black holes take in material; revealing much about the nature of these mysterious entities that are millions,
even billions, the size of our sun. “X-Ray satellites allow us to study the most extreme environments in the universe,” she said, and “we should know about where we live!”
Moreover, the discoveries coming out of her field in regard to x-ray imaging are highly applicable to the medical world, “which I think is really interesting,” she added.
“I think everyone should go to a Science Atlantic conference, whether you have research to present or not. Lots of people go just to learn about what research is being done at other schools… I was nervous to speak the first time, but the environment was so casual and supportive that I was just excited to talk about science I think is really cool.”
Graduating in May 2020, Waddell intends to pursue her combined passions for astrophysics and teaching by following the academic track with aspirations to become a professor.