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PRESS RELEASE: LOWELL OBSERVATORY NAMES FIRST PERCIVAL LOWELL SCHOLAR

Tyler Richey-Yowell

Tyler Richey-Yowell at the Mauna Kea Observatories, with the two Keck telescopes and the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) in the background.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 26, 2022

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Flagstaff, AZ. – This year, Lowell Observatory introduced the Percival Lowell Postdoctoral Fellowship to support early-career scientists who wish to pursue independent research in astronomy, planetary science, instrumentation, and related fields. The Observatory plans to appoint one new Percival Lowell Fellow each year. Arizona State University’s Tyler Richey-Yowell is the inaugural fellow and will begin her tenure this fall.

The Percival Lowell Postdoctoral Fellowship consists of a four-year appointment, during which fellows have access to the full range of resources at Lowell Observatory, including the 4.3-meter Lowell Discovery Telescope, the Navy Precision Optical Interferometer, several 1-meter class telescopes, the Astrophysical Materials Lab at Northern Arizona University, and a full suite of instrumentation and engineering resources. 

“The Percival Lowell Postdoctoral Fellowship allows Lowell Observatory to attract the brightest young minds on a continuous basis,” said Dr. Christoph Keller, Director of Science at Lowell Observatory. “By offering four-year positions with substantial research funds and ample access to cutting-edge instrumentation on our own telescopes, we can successfully compete with the most prestigious postdoc positions.” 

Lowell Observatory’s Native American Astronomy Outreach Program, as well as its new Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation Astronomy Discovery Center—set to open in 2024—will offer additional opportunities for fellows who wish to develop their science communication skills as part of the observatory’s education and public outreach mission. 

Richey-Yowell, who studies K-type stars (dwarf stars that are a little smaller than our Sun) to determine if they can host habitable planets, has a long connection with Lowell Observatory. As an undergraduate at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, she used Lowell’s 31-inch NURO Telescope for research several times. She later enrolled at Arizona State University for graduate studies so she could work with former Lowell astronomer Dr. Evgenya Shkolnik, who leads a team examining star-planet interactions and ended up serving as Richey-Yowell’s PhD advisor.

A member of Shkolnik’s team, Dr. Joe Llama, is a current Lowell astronomer and alerted Richey-Yowell to the Percival Lowell Postdoctoral Fellowship. Richey-Yowell jumped at the chance to apply. She said, “I decided to apply because I’ve always wanted to work at Lowell Observatory, and I really love what Lowell stands for. I’m someone who is passionate about my research, and Lowell is passionate about research. I also really enjoy community outreach. I think being able to share science is important, and that’s a key thing that Lowell does. Being able to match Lowell with my personal priorities is the main reason I applied and accepted.”

Richey-Yowell will earn her PhD in May and will begin the fellowship in the fall. She plans to continue her study of K-type stars and try to clarify an unexpected aspect of their behavior. She explained, “We’re finding that K-type stars remain active much longer than we thought they would. This means they may not be ideal hosts for planets with life, as previously thought. For my fellowship, I’m going to try and learn more about K-type stars to see if this is the case.”

Keller is excited by Richey-Yowell’s fellowship vision and noted its fit with that of Lowell Observatory. He said, “Tyler proposed a research plan that is an excellent complement to our existing scientific endeavors. Combined with her excellent prospects for scientific breakthroughs, there was no doubt that she should be the first Percival Lowell Fellow.” 

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About Lowell Observatory
Lowell Observatory is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) research institution, founded in 1894 by Percival Lowell atop Mars Hill in Flagstaff, Arizona. The Observatory has been the site of many important discoveries, including the first detection of large recessional velocities (redshift) of galaxies by Vesto Slipher in 1912-1914 (a result that led ultimately to the realization that the universe is expanding), and the discovery of Pluto by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. Today, the Observatory’s 14 tenured astronomers use ground-based telescopes around the world, telescopes in space, and NASA planetary spacecraft to conduct research in diverse areas of astronomy and planetary science. Lowell Observatory currently operates multiple research instruments at its Anderson Mesa station, east of Flagstaff, and the 4.3-meter Lowell Discovery Telescope near Happy Jack, Arizona. Prior to the pandemic, the observatory also welcomed more than 100,000 guests per year to its Mars Hill campus in Flagstaff, Arizona, for a variety of educational experiences, including historical tours, science presentations, and telescope viewing.

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Media Contact
Kevin Schindler, Lowell Observatory PIO
(928) 607-1387