Introducing Gourav Khullar

Gourav Khullar (@isskywalker, Pronouns: he/him) is a PhD Candidate at the University of Chicago, affiliated with the Dept. of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and the Kavli Institute of Cosmological Physics. An Indian national, he has been in Chicago since 2015, having moved to the US from the University of Cambridge with a masters degree in Astrophysics, and the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi with a bachelors degree in Engineering Physics.
Gourav’s research focuses on the astrophysics of member galaxies of high-redshift galaxy clusters, which he studies via tools like optical-infrared spectroscopy and strong gravitational lensing. Gourav is part of the South Pole Telescope (SPT) Clusters collaboration, and is also affiliated with the Dark Energy Survey (DES). Counting himself as an observer and an analyst, Gourav is a frequent user of the Magellan Telescopes and the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile for his research. His past work as an undergraduate and masters student includes an analysis of host galaxy properties in DES-discovered active galactic nuclei (AGN), understanding chemical enrichment in galaxy environments via simulations and observations, spectroscopic studies of Type Ib supernovae, and building stellar speckle interferometric apparatus in a laboratory that mimic adaptive optics systems on telescopes.
Outside astrophysics research, Gourav has also been a part of the Astrobites collaboration since 2015, both as a science communication writer-editor and an education researcher. Gourav also works on issues of social justice, having co-founded initiatives like the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Journal Club (DEIJC) at UChicago, a platform that helps early-career astrophysicists create an equitable and inclusive local community through peer education. He is an organizer and officer with Graduate Students United – UChicago’s graduate worker union – which has been fighting for labor rights for graduate members of the UChicago community. On a light day, you would find Gourav reading non-fiction books, listening to Punjabi music, or at a movie theatre checking out the latest superhero flick!

Introducing David Wilson

David Wilson (@astrodave2) is a postdoc at the University of Texas at Austin, having recently moved there after completing his PhD at the University of Warwick. His research focuses on observing M dwarf and white dwarf stars using Hubble and other space telescopes. He uses those observations to explore the effects of stellar activity on extrasolar planets and to study the remnants of planetary systems around dead stars. In particular, David is a member of the Mega-Muscles collaboration, which is using a large number of telescopes to produce an archive of pan-chromatic M dwarf spectra.

Along with his research, David is also interested in science communication and outreach. During his PhD he was a writer for the Astrobites collaboration and regularly visited local schools to give talks and present planetarium shows. When not working, David can usually be found reading sci-fi books or adding to his space-themed Lego collection.

Introducing Emily Hunt

Emily Hunt (@emilydoesastro) is a final year undergraduate at the University of Bath in the UK. She is approaching the end of a summer internship, with the aim of improving the knowledge of dust extinction to variable stars in the Magellanic clouds by using parallax data from the Gaia satellite. The past couple of months have been an adventure in learning about Bayesian statistics, variable stars, and doing large-scale data analysis in Python. Emily is also passionate about equality and diversity in science, being involved in running a Network of Women in Physics at her university and being an advocate for LGBT+ people in STEM.

In her spare time, Emily does live sound engineering and plays guitar. She grew up in Coventry in the middle of the UK, and developed her passion for space after a family move nearer to the countryside with a darker night sky. She’s also a science fiction buff, and has an arduino called Lovelace.

(Re-)Introducing Simon Porter

Simon Porter (@ascendingnode) is a Research Scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. He is a Co-Investigator on NASA’s New Horizons extended mission to encounter the cold classical Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) 2014 MU69. On the mission, he focuses on the small satellites of Pluto, determining the orbit of 2014 MU69, and the other KBOs that New Horizons is passing along the way. This summer, he is supporting the stellar occultations of MU69s in Senegal. In addition to mission work, he studies the orbital and tidal dynamics of other binary and triple KBOs and Centaurs.

Simon is originally from Burlington, Ontario, Canada, and grew up there, Oxfordshire, and Tennessee. He received a BS in Physics from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and was a undergrad Space Grant intern at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He received his PhD in Astrophysics from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, and was a Predoctoral Fellow at Lowell Observatory. Simon enjoys hiking, aerospace history, and identifying obscure aircraft/rockets/spacecraft.

Introducing Jessie Christiansen

Dr. Jessie Christiansen (@aussiastronomer) is a research scientist at the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at Caltech. She searches for, studies, and catalogues extrasolar planets — planets orbiting other stars. Her main research focuses on using the thousands of exoplanets found by the NASA Kepler and K2 missions to determine how common planets similar to the Earth might be throughout the Galaxy, and she is getting ready to do the same with the NASA TESS mission.

She is an avid science communicator, and is particularly engaged with reaching and elevating under-represented minorities in the sciences. When she is more engaged with this particular planet, she is chasing her twin 3-year-olds around, enjoying various sci-fi/fantasy fandoms, and is married to fellow astronomer @PFHopkins_Astro.

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.