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Meet Our Students: Wai-Ting Lam

Wai-Ting Lam is a PhD student studying with Dr. Marian Gidea, director of the graduate program in mathematics at Yeshiva University. YU News had a chance to speak with her about a lecture she gave at the SIAM Conference on Dynamical Systems and SIAM Workshop on Network Science, which ran from May 19-23, 2019, in Snowbird, Utah, along with her plans for the future. (SIAM stands for the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.)

Wai-Ting Lam

My passion for space missions can be traced back to my internship at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at NASA during the summer of 2017. Whether as an intern at JPL or a PhD student at Yeshiva University, I have been interested in applying mathematics—particularly celestial mechanics—to space missions.

At the SIAM Conference, I gave a lecture titled “Hill Four-Body Problem with Oblate Tertiary: With Application to the Sun-Jupiter-Hektor-Skamandrios System.”

According to NASA’s plans for future space missions, the exploration of Jupiter, its moons, and Jupiter’s Trojans is of great interest. Jupiter has been visited by passing spacecraft orbiters as well as probes. NASA’s Juno spacecraft has orbited Jupiter since 2016 for further investigation of the planet.

Besides the planet itself, NASA is also interested in the neighborhood of Jupiter. NASA’s probe Lucy, which is planned to launch in 2021, is the first mission to explore Trojan asteroids, a family of asteroids that share the same orbit with Jupiter while orbiting around the Sun.

Using a mathematical model, we aim to study the dynamics near Jupiter’s Trojans. In the work presented at the SIAM meeting, I focused on the largest Trojan asteroid, Hektor, which has a moon, Skamandrios. Investigating the dynamics around Hektor provides us information about the orbit of Skamandrios.

The same model can be used to analyze possible trajectories for a spacecraft visiting Hektor or some other Trojan asteroid. By using this model, we can design mathematical options for optimal spacecraft orbits around the asteroid or even to land on it.

Collaborating with a group of experienced researchers at Yeshiva University such as Dr. Marian Gidea, Dr. Fredy Zypman, Dr. Edward Belbruno and Dr. Pablo Roldan as well as with other researchers from around the world has been beneficial for me in developing my skills and expertise in mathematical sciences. Becoming a researcher is the career path that I would like to pursue in the future. I enjoy the challenging, stimulating and creative work as a researcher, but I also find it very rewarding to make discoveries that are beneficial to society and for our future space missions.