UCSB astrophysicist and assistant physics professor Crystal Martin has recently been awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship. The Sloan Fellowship includes a $40,000 grant to be spent on research over the course of two years.

The fellowship was established in 1955 and is offered to young physicists who do not yet have the money to advance their research. Martin said she now has more freedom in choosing which projects she wants to focus on and the ability to attract more interested researchers.

“The award is for the entire astrophysics group,” Martin said. “[It] reflects on the high caliber of the physics department at UCSB.”

The department is working to make major advancements in the field of astrophysics. Martin said her research involves explaining the formation of galaxies and understanding how star formation rates are regulated.

“We want to find out how the first lights in the universe turned on,” Martin said. This will ultimately help physicists to develop a greater understanding of the origin of the universe.

When stars form, they emit radiation, which strips surrounding gases of their electrons. The rate at which this occurs is important in explaining the formation of galaxies. This is the phenomenon Martin works on and observes regularly at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii.

Martin’s career as an astrophysicist is still young, and she has only been at UCSB for one year, but she has already received acclaim from institutions other than the Sloan Foundation. The Packard Foundation gave Martin a $650,000 grant to be spent on research over a five-year period. Only 50 universities are allowed to submit applicants to the Packard Foundation, making Martin part of a very small group of physicists eligible for such recognition.

“We take a little bit of the award with us, but people should understand that she won the award because she is Crystal Martin, not because she is in the UCSB Physics Dept.,” department chair James Allen said.