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Dr. Thomas Pannuti shares passion for astronomy research with students

Dr. Thomas PannutiDr. Thomas Pannuti, Morehead state professor of astrophysics and space science, was barely a teenager when Haley’s Comet made its 1986 orbit around the earth. Still, he was fascinated with the celestial object. He scoured his local library for books on astronomy, learning all he could in the months leading up to the comet’s passage.   

“I was amazed at how astronomers could determine such properties of stars as their surface temperatures, their diameters and their distances, all with a high degree of confidence,” Pannuti said. “My passion for astronomy was ignited at that time, and I made up my mind then that I wanted to become a professional astronomer.”  

Recently, Pannuti was recognized for his research work with students as the recipient of the Council on Undergraduate Research Physics and Astronomy (CUR P&A) Division’s Outstanding Mentor Award.   

Pannuti’s primary research focus is the study of galactic and extragalactic supernova remnants, and he has mentored approximately 50 undergraduate students in his time at MSU. Pannuti said he was guided to the study of supernova remnants while working on his Ph.D. dissertation at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and has built on that research during post-doctoral positions and at MSU.   

“Students have helped me to identify X-ray emission from extragalactic supernova remnants, to determine the X-ray morphologies of galactic supernova remnants and to perform spectroscopy of different portions of galactic supernova remnants with the intent of determining the types of stellar progenitors of these explosions,” Pannuti said. “I believe these experiences in combination represent an extension of the education that a student receives in the classroom. I also believe the sum of these experiences make a student more prepared for the workforce in that they learn how to apply their knowledge to a problem, how to solve the problem itself and how to present their solution to their peers in the workforce in an effective manner.”   

Pannuti said he received good mentorship as a student and therefore understands how important it can be to a student’s success. He added he is honored by the recognition he received from CUR P&A.  

“My mentors impressed upon me how to pursue a project with proper scientific rigor as well as to be resourceful with a project, such as the importance of drawing upon multiple skills and references to develop a truly informed perspective on the project,” he said. “Involving students in research has been one of my greatest joys during my career at MSU, and I am always thrilled for the students when their names appear as co-authors on papers that we publish in refereed journals. I truly hope they find the experience of working on research projects to be beneficial.”  

For additional information about Pannuti’s research, email or call 606-783-9591. 

To explore programs in MSU’s Department of Physics, Earth Science and Space Systems Engineering, visit, email or call 606-783-2381.