Student Highlights: Evan Cook


Class:  Graduate

Major:  Physics

Evan Cook hails from the dense forests and sprawling fields of western Michigan. Homeschooled all the way through high school, Evan developed a deep passion for learning that eventually took him to Calvin College. He earned his B.S. degree in physics in 2019, and then—after a formative summer spent leading stargazing tours of the night sky—began his graduate studies in the astrophysics track at University of Wyoming. When he isn’t holed up in his office, Evan can be found dancing down mountains, jumping in frigid lakes, and crooning at karaoke.

Evan presenting his research at the American Astronomy Society Meeting in January 2024


Binary stars (i.e., systems of two stars orbiting each other) are very common. Occasionally, the two stars in a binary pair decide to take their friendship more seriously and form a contact binary, where they draw so close to each other that they share a common atmosphere. Such contact binaries are surprisingly stable and are thought to last for hundreds of millions if not billions of years before they eventually merge and die. The question is, what are they doing during that time? How do they evolve? We know how isolated stars evolve, but presumably stellar evolution looks different for contact binaries where the two stars are able to share matter and energy. Recently, theoretical models have been published that make quantitative predictions for contact binary evolution. Evan uses high-resolution spectroscopy to observationally test these predictions.


Every year, we award fellowships to graduate and undergraduate students attending the University of Wyoming or one of Wyoming’s community colleges in order to provide them with the opportunity to do “real” research. Occasionally, we feature one of these students and their research on this blog. For more information about our student fellowships, visit our College Programs page.