Introducing Alessondra Springmann

Alessondra Springmann is a planetary radar astronomer finishing up an almost two-year stint at Arecibo Observatory observing near-Earth asteroids with the Arecibo planetary radar system on the 305-meter William E. Gordon radio telescope. Her research interests involve binary asteroids systems, and feedback between surface properties of asteroids and non-gravitational forces. She will be working for the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission as a graduate researcher at the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in the fall on more asteroid science. Alessondra received her M.Sc. from MIT in Earth & Planetary Sciences and a B.A. from Wellesley College in Astrophysics. In her spare time she hikes, SCUBA dives, herds @observatorycats, and races sailboats. The rest of the year you can her at @sondy on Twitter.


Introducing Andy Puckett

Andy Puckett is Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia. He grew up in the St. Louis metro area of southern Illinois, then got his bachelor’s degree in Physics & Mathematics at Vanderbilt University. He moved to Chicago, met his awesome wife (for whom asteroid (178226) Rebeccalouise is named), and earned his PhD in Astronomy & Astrophysics from the University of Chicago. They then ventured north to the University of Alaska Anchorage, where as a postdoc he developed curricula to bring authentic astronomical research projects into the undergraduate classroom. After a 3-year stint as both Assistant Professor and Director of UAA’s Planetarium & Visualization Theater, he then moved his young family again, 4,000+ miles to Georgia. They have 3 children born in 3 different states: Illinois, Alaska, and Georgia. Now they plan to stay put for a while.

Andy’s research interests lie primarily in the astrometric, photometric, and spectroscopic study of small solar system bodies for the purposes of discovery, orbital refinement, and physical characterization. His focus is on distant bodies (centaurs, transneptunians, and comets), but will study any main belt, near-earth, or trojan asteroid that comes his way. He is part of a team that has used data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to discover 44 new objects in the solar system, including five dwarf planet candidates, two of the nine known Neptune trojans, and two of the five known transneptunians with orbits extending beyond 900 AU. On his blog and in the classroom, he uses orbit uncertainty visualizations to show students that science is a process that decreases uncertainty… with time and effort!

He tweets his sciencey thoughts @astropuckett.

Introducing Michelle Collins

This week features Michelle Collins, a postdoctoral fellow at the Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg. Most of her work focuses on studying the dynamics of stars within our neighbouring spiral galaxy system, Andromeda. She uses these measurements to better understand how spiral galaxies form, and to ascertain the nature of dark matter.

Michelle originally hails from just outside of London in the UK. She studied Physics with Astrophysics at the University of Manchester as an undergraduate, where she met the famous Brian Cox, but doubts he remembers. After taking a year off to see some of the World, she set about getting a PhD at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, where she learned and discovered a lot about the mass profiles of dwarf galaxies, and their importance for understanding the rest of the Universe. When not tweeting for @astrotweeps, she can be found running, reading, traveling, and tweeting as @michelle_lmc.

Introducing Michael Rutkowski

This week features Michael Rutkowski, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Minnesota’s Institute for Astrophysics.  Michael recently finished his Ph.D. research in 2013 at Arizona State University. There, as in Minnesota, Michael has focused on the formation and evolution of galaxies across the Hubble Sequence.   His dissertation research was primarily focused on the star formation histories of early-type galaxies, a broad class of massive galaxies which were once roundly assumed to be “red and dead” and lacking recent star formation.  Using UV-optical imaging of these galaxies,  he and collaborators have shown the picture of ETG evolution to be a bit more complicated.

While at Minnesota, he continues to use the Hubble Space Telescope, space-based UV observatories, and large ground-based facilities for the study of galaxy evolution, though his research now is primarily focused on dwarf star-forming galaxies and their role in cosmic reionization.  In addition to the astrophysics of galaxies, Michael is also generally interested in the development of techniques and algorithms for quantitatively assessing multi-wavelength galaxy morphologies.  Outside of the lab, Michael enjoys making galileoscopes with students around the US, teaching public classes on general astronomy at the local learning annex, and learning more of the cosmologies of the native peoples of the places where he’s been lucky enough to live during his term as a science migrant.

Michael tweets regularly at @mjrutkow

Introducing Branden Allen

This week features Branden Allen, a staff astronomer at the Harvard College Observatory, part of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). Branden’s research has primarily been focused on the development and deployment of next generation X/γ-Ray wide field monitors with the goal of detecting and characterizing a wide range of
high energy phenomena such as Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRBs) and Supernova. He began his career as graduate student at the University of California, Irvine with the Milagro project (a water Cherenkov all sky TeV γ-ray monitor) and, after graduating in 2007, moved to the CfA joining the ProtoEXIST collaboration which has successfully launched two next generation CdZnTe (CZT) hard X-ray telescopes in two balloon payloads in 2009 and 2012.

In a strange twist of fate he has recently joined the science team of the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission, and has become engaged in the study of near earth objects (NEOs). Here he has been active in the development of the REgolith X-Ray Imaging Spectrometer (REXIS), a joint Harvard-MIT effort which is the student instrument for
OSIRIS-REx that will characterize the elemental composition of the surface of the asteroid 101955 Bennu. OSIRIS-REx is slated for launch in September of 2016, will reach Bennu in 2018, and return a sample to Earth in 2023.

You can find Branden the rest of the year on Twitter at @fermi_lives