Spacing out is her specialty



UI sophomore Hannah Gulick poses for a portrait on the in front of the observatory on the roof of Van Allen Hall on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018. Gulick helped to design a satellite which will be launched into space this spring. (Nick Rohlman)

Aadit Tambe, [email protected]

While Hawkeyes continue to soar to new heights in the classroom, UI sophomore Hannah Gulick’s work shoots for the stars.

Originally from Spirit Lake, Iowa, Gulick worked on two satellites, one of which, named HERCI, has been launched.

HERCI took off for space on Jan. 11 on a rocket by the Indian Space Research Organization. Gulick helped set up the ground-base equipment and equipment that connects with the radio, she said. She started working on it about two months ago, helping to develop software and analyze data.

“I will be tracking [HERCI] as it is in space,” she said.

HaloSat, the other satellite Gulick worked on, is a UI collaboration with NASA. She helped build and assemble the instrument and coded for data analysis. The satellite will be launched in May.

“It will go into the lower orbit, where the International Space Station is, point toward the middle of our galaxy to map the halo of gas that is around our galaxy,” Gulick said.

Extraterrestrial research wasn’t always Gulick’s dream job. She grew up wanting to be a creative-writing major.

“In high school, I had to take a class called Core Academy, [which] was a project-based learning class,” she said. “[One of the projects in the class] was about outer space. I thought it was super interesting.”

That got Gulick into astrophysics.

She recently traveled to Norway to attend a four-day “rocket campaign,” taking part in building a sounding rocket with different experiments on it. She was the first American to attend the program.

Gulick’s mentors are Professors Robert Mutel and Philip Kaaret of the Physics/Astronomy Department.

“Hannah is very enthusiastic and thrives when given a chance to make an independent contribution,” Kaaret said in an email to The Daily Iowan.

Gulick was invited to join Kaaret’s team, who heard about her from other faculty members, to work on the HaloSat.

“Professor Kaaret likes to challenge you, so he will throw you into a project without too much [background] information, and then it is your job to get the project done,” she said. “That is a great learning experience, because it teaches you work ethic along with astronomy.”

She chose the UI to do research, she said.

“The second I joined, I was doing research, and I loved it,” she said. “It has been stressful, working on doing schoolwork on top of projects, but it has gotten me places I wouldn’t have gone.”

She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in astrophysics after graduation.

“I want to be a researching astrophysicist at NASA, after which I want to get into academia and continue research,” she said.

The biggest hurdle she faced, she said, was coming from a small town in Iowa.

“The confidence factor is the biggest challenge I faced,” she explained. “You look at yourself and say you’re from a small town in Iowa and think it is going to be a lot harder for you.”

Gulick said the exposure and support she got at the UI is incomparable, even at an Ivy League school.

“I think Hannah is really motivated and driven, and she knows what she wants to do,” said Anna Zajczyk, a coworker of Gulick’s. “She made the most of every opportunity and is able to see the bigger picture.”







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