laura_2015ABOUT ME: 

Proud Chicana born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. Fun Fact: Mama and Daddy have astronomical last names: Vega and Luna! I am a former recipient of the NASA OSTEM MUREP Harriett G. Jenkins Predoctoral Fellowship. I am a first-generation college graduate, obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of Texas at San Antonio (December 2013). I am a former student of the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-PhD Bridge Program, where I earned a Master’s degree in Physics from Fisk University (May 2017) and a PhD in Astrophysics (March 2021), advised by Dr. Keivan Stassun at Vanderbilt University. I am currently working at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (working from home) with Goddard’s Exoplanets Team, lead by Dr. Elisa Quintana, and conducting research with NASA mentor, Dr. Patricia Boyd.
✨ Under the branch of stellar astrophysics, my research interests are in pulsating supergiant stars in late-stage stellar evolution. I study how binarity and the presence of a circumbinary disk affect the light from evolved stars, their pulsations, and their future evolution. With the aid of the Smithsonian Latino Center, I also work closely with Dr. Rodolfo Montez Jr. at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, MA. Check out my work on the DF Cygni system, the only RV Tauri star system in NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope field-of-view! I am also a co-author on a paper with my former undergraduate research advisor, Dr. Eric Schlegel, who discovered a “burping” black hole in the Whirlpool Galaxy using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Space Telescope. Also, check out the cool science I have recently been a part of lead by my awesome colleagues, here, on M-dwarf stars using NASA’s TESS. I enjoy volunteering as a visiting astronomer at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. I am currently training on how to host a virtual planetarium show for students (request one via NASM)! In the past, I have conducted a monthly Astronomy Chat, where I interact with museum-visitors of all ages, and chat about astronomy, my research, and share what it is like to be an astronomer!