Introducing Peter Boorman

Peter Boorman (@boorm) is a PhD student at the University of Southampton in the UK, where he currently studies hidden monster supermassive black holes actively growing at the centres of galaxies.  These black holes grow by eating material surrounding them which can also act to conceal the active galactic nucleus (AGN) from our view.  This is why Peter relies on high-energy X-ray vision (courtesy of X-ray telescopes in space such as @NASANuSTAR!) to be able to stare through the obscuring layers of gas concealing the AGN, and reveal the hungry black hole lurking beneath.  However, much like Superman’s X-ray vision being blocked by lead, the densest and thickest layers of obscuring gas can even stop the highest energy X-rays from escaping some heavily obscured black holes.
Despite their apparent rarity, it is predicted that there are a very high number of these hiding supermassive black holes out there in the Universe that just haven’t been found yet.  These AGN are essential for understanding the evolution of all supermassive black holes, and hence all galaxies hosting them since the dawn of the Universe over 13 billion years ago.  With observations of galaxies in the local Universe, Peter will figure out how many obscured AGN there are on average, and how many have been missed in the past.  When Peter isn’t spying on the most obscured black hole banquets in the Universe, he enjoys baking cakes and cooking lots of different recipes, as well as running long distances to burn it off!

Introducing Stephanie Hamilton

Stephanie Hamilton (@StephHamy820) is a PhD student in physics at the University of Michigan, though she considers herself an adult-onset astronomer. She is studying the orbits of the small bodies beyond Neptune in order learn more about the Solar System’s formation and evolution. As an additional perk, she gets to travel the world as part of the Dark Energy Survey Collaboration and has acquired several new stamps in her passport over the past few years.


Stephanie is also a passionate science communicator, spending a large part of whatever free time she gets talking to kids about astronomy at the University of Michigan’s Natural History Museum or at the Detroit Zoo, writing articles for Astrobites or the Michigan Science Writers, and helping train other scientists to communicate their research through the ComSciCon franchise (specifically ComSciCon-MI 2018, for which she is a leading organizer) or the RELATE organization at Michigan.


When she’s not studying the outer solar system or telling people about it, she loves to play tennis, practice yoga, plan future travel adventures, or force her cat to cuddle with her.

Introducing Kendall Sullivan

Kendall Sullivan (@kendall_sull) is a research assistant at Lowell Observatory, in Flagstaff, AZ. Her research currently focuses on star-disk interactions in young binary stars, especially the various weird ways material can accrete onto young binaries, and how evolving in a binary affects young stars’ evolution. Before working at Lowell, Kendall received her BS in Physics and Astronomy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she studied the magnetic fields of edge-on spiral galaxies and gaseous companions to starbursting dwarf galaxies before discovering how cool young stars are. In August, Kendall will be moving to the Astronomy PhD program at the University of Texas at Austin. Kendall currently spends most of the time she’s not working on her own research working on other people’s research, but outside of the office she enjoys cooking, drinking good beer, and picking up heavy things (and setting them back down).

Introducing Cathy Olkin

Cathy Olkin (@colkin) is a planetary scientist at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, CO. Her main topic of research is the outer solar system, specifically planetary atmospheres and surfaces.  She is the Deputy Project Scientist for NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. The New Horizons mission provided the first close-up images of Pluto and its moons in 2015. It is currently en route to encounter a close classical Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule. She is also the Deputy Principal Investigator for NASA’s Lucy mission. The Lucy mission will be the first spacecraft to visit the Trojan asteroids. Cathy also carries out ground-based observations including stellar occultations to learn about the size and atmosphere of small worlds and is the current Chair of the Division for Planetary Science of the American Astronomical Society.

In her free time, Cathy mentors FIRST robotics programs providing hands-on STEM education for students from 4th grade to 12th grade.

Introducing Heidi Thiemann

Heidi Thiemann (@heidi_teaman) is a PhD student in astronomy at The Open University in Milton Keynes. Her research focuses on the creation of catalogue of rotatationally modulated stars with an X-ray counterpart (aka stars with star spots) in the SuperWASP All Sky Survey and the XMM-Newton catalogue. Through machine learning, she will use such stars to study the relationship between the rotation period and X-ray activity of stars, which may be able to tell us more about exoplanetary atmospheres and habitability.
Before her PhD, Heidi did an MPhys in Physics with Space Science and Technology at the University of Leicester, and blames a family friend for getting her interested in astronomy at the age of 11.
Outside of research, she co-runs a space-themed careers website for young people (@spacecareersuk), and is a senior mentor at Space School UK. To escape from astronomy, Heidi spends her time running, baking, attempting to learn Japanese, and wishing she could spend her entire PhD stipend on learning to fly.

Introducing Mia de los Reyes

Mia de los Reyes (@MiaDoesAstro) just finished her first year of the PhD program in astronomy at Caltech! Mia’s research mostly focuses on nearby galaxies—how they form stars, and the chemical compositions of those stars. She’s currently working on measuring manganese in dwarf galaxies near the Milky Way, which can tell us about the physics of some of the supernovae that exploded in these galaxies. Before escaping to sunny California, she did her undergrad in physics and math at North Carolina State University and spent a year doing an MPhil degree at the University of Cambridge.
Mia is also passionate about science-related things other than research, including: equity and inclusion in science, science policy, and science outreach. As part of her unending campaign to get people to care about galaxies, she writes for Astrobites (@astrobites). Perhaps even more importantly, Mia also cares about rock climbing, literally anything related to Tolkien, and finding and consuming free food.

Introducing Teddy Kareta

Theodore (“Teddy”) Kareta (@teddykareta) is a 1st year graduate student at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. Teddy studies the evolution of small bodies (e.g. comets, asteroids) with telescopic and spacecraft data, such as from the NASA IRTF, the ESA’s Rosetta mission, and (in a few months) NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. Specifically, he is interested in studying the surfaces of small bodies to understand something about their history – and how they will continue to change into the future. Before moving to the desert of southern Arizona, he completed a BS in Physics and Astronomy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Outside of work, Teddy enjoys biking, outreach, and watching bad movies with his friends.