Jan Forbrich, Dan Smith, Mark Thompson
Star formation plays a critical role in both galaxy and cosmic evolution. Indeed, it is the rate of star formation that is the primary metric for cosmic evolution studies. Within galaxies star formation occurs in giant molecular clouds (GMCs). The physical conditions within these clouds set the star formation rate (SFR). The interplay between observable properties of the interstellar medium and the SFR is often described by empirical star formation 'laws'. We are presently conducting a large-scale project to study cloud-scale star formation laws in the Andromeda Galaxy, involving the Submillimeter Array (SMA) for novel, resolved dust continuum observations of individual GMCs (see Forbrich et al. 2020 for first results) and the Very Large Array (VLA) to survey all 326 known cloud complexes for HII regions. In this project, you would work on a third pillar of this project, which consists of multi-object optical spectroscopy of the HII region candidates identified with the VLA, again targeting all 326 known cloud complexes. We are conducting these observations with Hectospec on the 6.5m MMT. You would work on several aspects of the data reduction within our collaboration to then pursue a range of science goals: 1) confirm the identification of radio sources as HII regions and identify contaminants, 2) measure their individual metallicities, improving on previous measurements of metallicity gradients in M31, and 3) test extinction corrections by comparing H-alpha and associated SFR metrics with the extinction-free centimeter radio flux. This project will produce a large sample of HII regions with detailed properties in the context of their cloud complex environments. In particular, it will enable a detailed assessment of metallicity on the star formation properties of individual clouds. It will additionally inform the continuing observations for this project, most importantly those with the SMA, such that there is an opportunity to shape this continuing experiment. Your research work would be conducted in an international, novel and ongoing multi-wavelength project, involving, if conditions allow, observing visits to world-class observing facilities.