Introducing Lauren Weiss

Lauren is a third-year graduate student in the Astronomy PhD program at UC Berkeley. She discovers and characterizes exoplanets with her advisor Geoff Marcy using the Keck Telescope in Hawai’i and the Automated Planet Finder in California. In the past, she studied the masses of small exoplanets to determine which planets are likely rocky. For her thesis, she is studying the dynamics and architectures of multi-planet systems. You can read more about her research here.

Before coming to Berkeley, she studied astronomy at Harvard and Cambridge. She loves to write, was an author and the chair of the Editorial Board at the group astronomy blog Astrobites for two years, and has written a one-act play about dark matter. She also co-teaches a ballet class one night a week.

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Introducing Laura Vican

Laura is a third-year graduate student at UCLA. Her research focuses on the identification of young stars near the Sun. Specifically, she wants to better understand the evolution of dusty debris disks around these young stars. To do this, she spends much of her time observing with the Shane 3 meter telescope at Lick Observatory and the Keck 10m telescope on Mauna Kea.

She is also very interested in teaching and outreach. This week, she and her fellow outreach volunteers from UCLA will be participating in two outreach events in the local LA community. In addition to tweeting about her research, she will also tweet about fun hands-on astronomy demonstrations you can do with kids of all ages!

Introducing David Rodriguez

David is a Fondecyt postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Astronomy of the Universidad de Chile. He’s worked on a variety of projects including young stars, brown dwarfs, binary stars, and circumstellar disks. Most recently, his research has focused on identifying low-mass stars among 10-100 million year-old moving groups within about a hundred parsecs of Earth.

He’s primarily an observational astronomer, so frequently finds himself at the telescope taking observations to confirm or characterize the youthful nature of his target stars. The pristine dark skies of Chile is one of the main perks of being an astronomer there and so, for this week, he’ll be tweeting from two observatories: Cerro Tololo and La Silla.

You can find him on Twitter as @Strakul. When he’s not tweeting about astronomy, you’ll find him talking about life in Chile or his passion for speculative fiction and related matters.

Introducing Haley Gomez

This week, March 10-15, 2014,  features Haley Gomez. Haley is an astrophysicist and Senior Lecturer at Cardiff University and is interested in space dust.  As well as trying to find out where cosmic dust is formed, she teaches undergraduates at all levels of their degree and currently supervises 2 PhD students, so her typical day ranges from marking, writing exams, attending committees, giving advice, to traveling for conference talks or using scribbles on envelopes to try and solve problems.   She mostly works on data from the Herschel Space Observatory, an award winning infrared space telescope which can see further and with greater clarity than any other telescope like it.  As Head of Public Engagement in her Department, she is an advocate for outreach and engagement and runs outreach projects for primary children (Universe in the Classroom) and secondary children (Inspiring Science Education).   She also loves dresses.

The other 51 weeks of the year, you can find Haley at @astrofairy.

Introducing Bill Keel

This week, March 3-9, 2014, we hear from Bill Keel, professor of astronomy at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. After study at Vanderbilt University and the University of California at Santa Cruz, he spent postdoctoral terms at Kitt Peak National Observatory and Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands before taking his position at Alabama (a quarter-century ago). His research interests center on galaxies – active galaxies, interacting galaxies, dust in galaxies, history of galaxies; you get the picture. He approaches astronomy with a distinct observer’s viewpoint – more data, please! This makes Bill a connoisseur of telescopes, and he maintains amateur status as well with a couple of telescopes hauled out frequently on his deck at home. In recent years much of his observing has been by remote control, which can be convenient and affords much greater opportunities for feline “assistance”. He’s worked with data not only in visible light, but radio, infrared, ultraviolet, and X-rays, since the Universe cares about our instrumental divisions of the electromagnetic spectrum even less than it cares about our division of knowledge among academic departments. Much of his most interesting research in recent years came about as spinoff projects of the Galaxy Zoo citizen-science initiative, in particular unraveling the nature of the giant cloud known as Hanny’s Voorwerp and its smaller relatives. He enjoys conducting many public-outreach activities, such as Live Astronomy remote-observation sessions as part of the Space Track programming at DragonCon each year. Bill is also a weekend trombonist; one ballroom dance-band leader thinks it’s funny to ask him to do melody turns on “Stars Fell on Alabama”, “Stardust”, and “Fly Me to the Moon”. The rest of the year, you can find his tweets as @NGC3314.