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Laguna Senior Caitlin Gainey Shoots for the Stars with UCSB Science Research Team

Though not yet a high school graduate, Laguna senior Caitlin Gainey ’19 is already making strides in the scientific community.

As a result of her involvement in Staci Richard’s Science Research Program at Laguna, Caitlin was hired to work with UCSB Experimental Cosmologist and Professor of Physics Dr. Philip Lubin’s research group called “Trillion Planet Survey.” The goal of the group’s research is to explore the possibility of potential communication from other civilizations via fossil light signals.

Alongside UCSB undergraduates and researchers, Caitlin works to survey other galaxies by taking images of different areas of the galaxy via Las Cumbres Observatory telescopes. The team currently has its sights set on Andromeda and has around 3,000 images of its various sections. These images are run through a software “pipeline” that subtracts the team’s photos from a compiled, pristine photo of the galaxy to check for any discrepancies between the two.

If there is a difference in the images, the software will recognize it and the cause of the discrepancy will be further investigated by the team -- be it a supernova or possibly even a light signal from extraterrestrial light sources.

“The mere possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence is something very new and incredibly intriguing, so I'm excited to really delve into the search this coming year," says Caitlin.

Staci Richard remarks, “It’s not every day you come across a seventeen year old woman so passionate and motivated by the exploration of physics. Her dedication and hard work in the Laguna Science Research Program led to this exceptional opportunity, and I am extremely proud of her.”

Congratulations, Caitlin, on this exciting scientific endeavor!
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