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Leeseberg receives funding to search the stars

Park Rapids graduate Paige Leeseberg has received NASA funding to pursue space research at Iowa State University.

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Paige Leeseberg Contributed / Paige Leeseberg, Aug. 4, 2021

Paige Leeseberg, a 2019 graduate of Park Rapids Area High School, has been awarded an undergraduate research fellowship sponsored by NASA.

The $5,000 award through the Iowa Space Grant Consortium is for Leeseberg’s studies at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. Leeseberg is majoring in physics and astronomy.

According to a letter to Leeseberg from the director of the university’s department of aerospace engineering, the grant will be applied to her university account in two installments, one per semester, on the following conditions:

  • Leeseberg is involved in a full academic year research project.

  • She maintains a grade point average of at least 3.0.

  • She remains enrolled in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degree program for both semesters.

  • She participates in a student research symposium in the spring of 2022.

“I am beyond grateful,” Leeseberg said. “I have been interested in the space program since I was in middle school. The professor heading the project suggested that I pursue this opportunity.”
Leeseberg has been working under astrophysics professor Massimo Marengo in his research on star clusters since fall 2019. This involves processing and analyzing images of globular clusters in the galactic halo and the Large Magellanic Cloud taken by the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope.

“The goal of the project is to use variable stars in these clusters as ‘yardsticks’ to measure the Hubble Constant, which describes the rate of expansion of the universe,” said Leeseberg.

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After completing her undergraduate degree, she plans to pursue graduate studies in planetary sciences, specifically astrobiology. Her goal is to conduct astrobiological research at NASA someday.

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