Introducing Meenakshi Wadhwa

Meenakshi (Mini) Wadhwa (@minwadhwa) is Director of the Center for Meteorite Studies (@ASUMeteorites) and Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration (@SESEASU) at Arizona State University. Her research focuses on the origin and evolution of the Solar System and planets through geochemical and isotopic studies of meteorites, Moon rocks and other extraterrestrial samples returned by spacecraft missions. She has hunted for meteorites in Antarctica with the NASA- and NSF-funded Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) Program.

Mini holds a PhD in Earth and Planetary Science from Washington University in St. Louis. Following her doctorate, she was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California at San Diego, and was subsequently appointed as Curator of Meteorites at the Field Museum in Chicago. She moved to ASU in 2006 and has been there since. At ASU, she feels incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to work with some wonderfully talented students and colleagues, and loves the variety and the challenge afforded by the diverse responsibilities of her position. Outside of work, she enjoys outdoors activities; she loves hiking, running, biking and swimming. She received her pilot’s license (single engine rating) when she moved to Arizona, and enjoys scuba diving as well.

Introducing Will Armentrout

Will Armentrout (@WillArmentrout) is a doctoral student at West Virginia University in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. A graduate of Westminster College (@WestminsterPA), his roots are in Ford City, Pennsylvania, a glass town northeast of Pittsburgh. He’s in his last year of graduate school at WVU, studying high-mass star formation and Galactic HII regions with Prof. Loren Anderson (@Loren__Anderson). HII regions are areas of ionized gas surrounding young, high-mass stars and can help us to understand the structure, formation, and chemistry of galaxies. Will’s current project involves observing HII regions in the most distant molecular spiral arm within the Milky Way, known as the Outer Scutum-Centaurus spiral arm.

Will is spending this week at the Green Bank Telescope (@IamGBT), smack in the center of the National Radio Quiet Zone, which will certainly make tweeting a bit difficult! Primarily a radio astronomer, he is the principal investigator on projects with the GBT and the Very Large Array (@TheNRAO). He has recently moved into optical astronomy, though, with a project at the Gemini North Observatory (@GeminiObs).

Outside of research, he co-founded the West Virginia University Science Policy Organization (@WVUScience) in 2014. The group aims to open communication channels between university scientists and policy makers on the state and federal level and to also convey the importance (and excitement!) of basic and applied scientific research to the public. He also serves as president of the WVU Graduate and Professional Student Senate (@WVUGPSS), a group dedicated to keeping graduate students part of the larger campus conversation at WVU.

Introducing Zach Pace

Zach Pace (@zpacefromspace) just finished the third year of his PhD program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A native of Buffalo, NY, Zach received a B.S. in Physics and a B.A. in Mathematics from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 2014. His research interests include galaxy evolution, chemical enrichment histories, and stellar populations. He works with data from the SDSS-IV MaNGA survey, an integral-field spectroscopic program that will produce spectral maps of 10,000 nearby galaxies by 2020. He is an avid, daily programmer, and an avowed machine-learning enthusiast.

Zach is also interested in scientific education and outreach. He regularly gives public presentations and telescope sessions at state parks around Wisconsin, through the Universe in the Park program. He served from 2014-2016 as Vice-Chair of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, USA (SEDS-USA), an organization of nearly 50 college and university chapters dedicated to public engagement, career development, and science literacy. When not doing astronomy, Zach is often found reading, homebrewing, sailing, or playing pub quizzes (usually not simultaneously).

Introducing Nathalie Ouellette

Dr. Nathalie Ouellette is currently a Research Associate with the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada. Born and raised in Montreal, Canada, she graduated from McGill University’s Honours Physics program in 2010 before starting her graduate studies at Queen’s where she obtained her Ph.D. in 2016. Her main research interests are galaxy formation, evolution, dynamics, and scaling relations especially in the Virgo Cluster. She is a key member of the Spectroscopy and H-band Imaging of Virgo (SHIVir) team, and the PI of its spectroscopic component. She’s had the honour and pleasure of travelling to the Apache Point Observatory (Sunspot, New Mexico) and the Very Large Telescope (Paranal, Chile) to collect spectroscopic data firsthand for the program to determine the kinematics of Virgo galaxies and tie these into scaling relations.
Dr. Ouellette developed a passion for science communication and outreach early on during her undergrad, and knew she wanted to make it an integral part of her career moving forward. She managed the Queen’s Observatory for nearly 6 years and led the Queen’s Astronomy Research Group’s outreach efforts during her graduate studies, and only fell more in love with talking to people about how incredibly awesome astronomy is. She’s a frequent contributor in the media on astronomy news and enjoys bringing her love of space to people everywhere from classrooms to science festivals to conferences. Making science accessible to anyone and everyone is one of her main goals. You’ll find her slightly off-kilter sense of humour peppered throughout her website: http://www.astropanda.space.
She has a wonderful husband and together, they have a dog named Epsilon. In her free time, you’ll most likely find her hanging precariously off a rock climbing wall, forcing her husband to watch really awful movies, or painting some nebulae for her family

Introducing Karen Masters

Dr. Karen Masters (@KarenLMasters) is a Reader in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, University of Portsmouth. Her research interests are in the area of extragalactic astronomy typically using data from large surveys. She is the Spokesperson for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-IV; @sdssurveys), a job which involves maintaining the scientific collaboration, working on press releases and co-ordinating the SDSS Data Release paper among other things. Karen regularly observes with the Green Bank Telescope at 21cm to measure the neutral hydrogen content of galaxies in the SDSS-IV MaNGA (Mapping Nearby Galaxies at APO; @MaNGAsurvey) survey sample. She is also the Project Scientist for Galaxy Zoo (@galaxyzoo) and often uses information on galaxy shapes and types collected from this citizen science project in her research.

Dr. Masters is a passionate advocate for the use of citizen science in research, and the benefits this brings to both researchers and the members of the public who participate. She has published numerous papers making use of Galaxy Zoo classifications, and has also investigate the scientific learning which happens when people engage with citizen science projects.

Dr. Masters grew up in the Midlands of the UK, was state-school educated and went on to read Physics at Oxford (Wadham College) where she graduated top of the BA class in 2000. She moved to the US to study for a PhD in Astronomy at Cornell University, and spent 3 years working as a researcher at the Harvard College Observatory before moving back to the UK in 2008. In 2014 she had the honour of being named the British “Women of the Future” for Science, as well as being listed as of the BBC’s “100 Women”. She is married to a fellow academic and is the mother of two young children.

Introducing Franco Vazza

Franco Vazza  (@franco_vazza) is an astrophysicists who uses large cosmological simulations (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dep9RicS2Ts) to understand how elusive processes in the Universe work.
After getting is PhD from the University of Bologna (Italy) in 2009, he spent several nice years of Post-Doc at the Jacobs University in Bremen and at the Observatory of Hamburg (Germany). He is currently a Post-Doc Fellow co-funded by the Italian Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) and the the Horizon2020 initiative of the European Union, through the Marie Slodowska Curie Initiative Astrofit2.

In particular, he is interested in non-thermal processes in galaxy clusters and in cosmic filaments, like the  acceleration of cosmic rays, the onset of plasma turbulent motions and the origin of extragalactic magnetic fields.
Complex simulations (often involving ad-hoc code development) are necessary to model how each of these processes may emerge during the formation of cosmic structure, and in order to compare as closely as possible with the real observations coming from radio, X-ray and gamma telescopes.

His long term project MAGCOW (The MAGnetised COsmic Web) has recently received and ERC Starting Grant from the European Union, and will be based from the 1st of September 2017 at the University of Bologna and at the University of Hamburg. The most ambitious goal of this project is to enable the Square Kilometer Array to use its future deep observations to have sure detections of the rarefied cosmic web   (https://vimeo.com/204163883), and to assess the most likely origin of magnetic fields.

His homepage (including pretty pictures and movies of his work) is http://cosmosimfrazza.myfreesites.net
He is also a long time contributor to the Italian astro-amateur magazine “Le Stelle”.