Gail Zasowski Named a Cottrell Scholar

Dr. Gail Zasowski, assistant professor of the Department of Physics & Astronomy, has been named a 2021 Cottrell Scholar. The Cottrell Scholar program, run by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, honors early-career faculty members for the quality and innovation of not only their research programs but also their educational activities and their academic leadership. Each year, scholars are selected from a pool of candidates based on their research, education, leadership accomplishments, and proposed future work, as evaluated by panels of external experts.

"I'm honored to be on this list of amazing researchers,” said Zasowski. “This award will allow my group and me to try out a lot of very cool ideas, and I'm excited to be part of the really unique Cottrell Scholar community!"

Jordan Gerton, director of the Center for Science and Mathematics Education at the U and associate professor in the Physics Department, is a 2007 Cottrell Scholar. He was the keynote speaker at last year’s online annual Cottrell Scholar Conference, where he urged the “vibrant collaborative community of Cottrell Scholars to embrace their role as agents of change at their institutions.”

Zasowski, who joined the university in 2017, is an astronomer whose research focuses on understanding how galaxies produce and redistribute the heavy elements that shape the Universe and enable life in it. The 99.5% of Earth’s mass that is not made of hydrogen was actually forged in generations of stars over billions of years. This same “stardust” is responsible for most of what we observe in the Universe: from super-clusters of galaxies to stars and planets in our own galaxy. In order to understand the evolution of the Universe, we have to understand just how it has been enriched in the heavier elements (like carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen) by the stars and gas that reside inside galaxies.

"My research," said Zasowski, "takes advantage of our unique position within our own Milky Way galaxy to use the chemistry and ages of its stars, and of galaxies whose stars and gas share a similar history, to study galaxy evolution on scales that are too small to resolve throughout most of the Universe." Using a wide range of datasets, she and her group explore how and when the Milky Way's own stars enriched its interstellar gas, and how to best use the Milky Way to understand other similar galaxies.

Dr. Zasowski also serves as the spokesperson for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey's (SDSS) current generation, where she works to ensure a smooth, transparent, and inclusive functioning of the massive international collaboration of astronomers and engineers. Within the Physics Department, she is currently Chair of the Ombuds Committee and is looking forward to working with students, staff, and faculty on a student-mentoring initiative.


by Michele Swaner - first published @