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Physics student earns award for his high energy astrophysics research at state conference

Joshua Osborne
Joshua Osborne, who is now working on his Ph.D. in physics at UTA, won the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Poster Presentation Award at the 2019 Texas Section meeting of the American Physical Society.

A physics student at The University of Texas at Arlington earned a top prize for his research in high energy astrophysics at a statewide conference.

Joshua Osborne won the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Poster Presentation Award at the 2019 Texas Section meeting of the American Physical Society, held in October in Lubbock. Osborne received a B.S. degree in Physics in December and began working on his Ph.D. this semester.

Osborne works in the Computational Data Science Lab of Amir Shahmoradi, assistant professor of physics.

“This was the first time I had ever presented research at a conference, so I was very surprised,” Osborne said. “I had left the conference some time earlier before they handed out the award and hadn't known I had won until I received a text message with a picture of the award from Dr. Shahmoradi.”

Osborne’s winning project is titled “A Systematic Reconstruction and Quantification of the Lag-Luminosity Relationship in Gamma-Ray Bursts” and involves long gamma ray bursts -- explosions of gamma-ray light, the most energetic form of light.

Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) can last from milliseconds to several hours. Osborne’s research focuses on the long-duration bursts. GRBs shine hundreds of times brighter than a typical supernova and about a million trillion times as bright as the Sun, according to NASA.

“The work Joshua presented is on relationship between the lag observed in the light curves of GRBs at different energy bands and the relationship of these lags with the GRB intrinsic luminosities,” Shahmoradi said.

“Within the long GRB group we are looking at a relationship previously observed known as the lag-luminosity relationship,” Osborne said. “The lag is essentially the time delay between the arrival of the light from the star at two different energies and the luminosity is the brightness of the star.

“Our idea was that the correlation between these two variables is not as strong as previously thought and our work supports this idea, but there is still some more work that needs to be done to further refine our conclusions.”

Osborne hopes to publish the results of his work in a peer-reviewed journal in the coming months.

“For Joshua to win such a prestigious award while presenting the results of his first-ever research project in physics for the first time in his academic life is a great accomplishment,” Shahmoradi said. “Using data from the largest catalog of GRBs available to this date, he was able to reconstruct the long-held relationship between the lag and luminosity of GRBs.

“His preliminary results indicate that the strength of the lag-luminosity relationship, as hypothesized in the GRB community, is likely weaker than what is currently perceived.”

Osborne grew up in Corpus Christi and moved to Arlington in his teens. He graduated from Arlington High School, the place where his interest in physics began. He started watching YouTube channels devoted to physics and became fascinated by the subject. “From there I decided physics is what I wanted to study in college,” he said.

He visited the UTA campus as part of a college readiness program at Arlington High School. That helped lead him to choose to enroll at UTA.

“I enjoyed the atmosphere of the campus,” he said. “I also had a brother attending UTA who recommended that I come here. I think I made a really good choice.”