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Clarkson University Honors Student Presents “Black Hole” Research To Astronomers In San Diego

[A photograph for newspaper use is available at   

Kirstin Schillemat, a Physics major at Clarkson University spent last summer in Socorro, New Mexico, but she wasn’t there for the sun – quite the opposite. Schillemat spent her time studying the desert sky and the kinematics of a microquasar. Kinematics is the study of motion separate from the considerations of mass and force. The x-ray binary system, SS433, that Schillemat spent nearly 11 weeks studying is composed of a black hole and a companion star which rotate around one another. poster

“The rotation of these celestial entities and the laws of conservation of energy cause two jets to form near the center of the black hole. Kirstin’s research is focused on the proper motions of the materials within these jets,” explained David Craig, director of Clarkson’s Honors Program.  

“The National Science Foundation is the primary funding source for the Research for Undergraduate Experience program I participated in at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro,” explained Schillemat.  “From my research, I was able to compare the kinematics of the data set I was given with known models produced by other scientists, she exclaimed.”  Three members of the Observatory’s scientific staff, Amy Mioduszewski, Vivek Dhawan, and Michael Rupen worked with Schillemat on the research study.       

This past week the Clarkson junior from Nelson, New Hampshire, delivered her poster presentation, titled “Exploring the Jet Proper Motions of SS433,” based on her microquasar research to the American Astronomical Society at their annual conference in San Diego. Schillemat is planning to participate in experimental physics research next summer in Prague and is working on her Honors thesis “Wide Angle Tall Galaxy” with St. Lawrence University Professor Aileen O’Donoghue. 

Clarkson’s Honors Program offers an intensive curriculum for exceptionally talented undergraduate students in any of the University’s degree programs. The Honors courses address real-world problems and offer students opportunities to engage in original research from a multidisciplinary perspective. The Honors Program challenges students to make the most of their intellectual gifts and requires them to develop their creative, analytical, communication, and teamwork skills. Only 30 students are admitted to the Honors Program each year. Students typically rank in the top 10% of their high school class and have SAT scores of at least 1,350 or demonstrate outstanding academic or leadership achievements. 

Clarkson University, located in Potsdam, New York, is an independent university with a reputation for developing innovative leaders in engineering, business and the sciences. Its academically rigorous, collaborative culture involves 2,700 undergraduates and 400 graduate students in hands-on team projects, multidisciplinary research, and real-world challenges. Many faculty members achieve international recognition for their scholarship and research, and teaching is a priority at every level.  For more information, visit 

PHOTO CAPTION: Clarkson University Honors student Kirstin Schillemat shows Clarkson University Honors Program Director David Craig the poster presentation she delivered recently to the American Astronomical Society in San Diego. Schillemat’s research on the kinematics of microquasar SS433 was completed at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, New Mexico, last summer.
[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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