Introducing John Gizis

This week features John Gizis. He is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Delaware in the USA. Instead of studying extremely distant luminous objects  with our most moderrn telescopes, he studies dim, nearby stars— think M, L, T and Y dwarfs. Objects at 100 parcsecs are uncomfortably distant in his opinion. When he started graduate school in 1992, nearby M dwarfs were considered uninteresting, but now they are fashionable thanks to the possibilty of detecting habitable  planets. He has also been fortunate to see the study of brown dwarfs go from searches for hypothetical objects to an active field of research. He considers himself an optical/infrared observational astronomer but he has ventured into the ultraviolet and X-rays from time to time.  He thinks he is fortunate to have the best job in the world and enjoys having the opportunity to teach both physics and astronomy.  The rest of the year, he is @johngizis, tweeting about astronomy and sports.

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Introducing Tanya Urrutia

My name is Tanya Urrutia and I am a postdoc at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics in Potsdam, Germany. It is an institute with quite a history as it once was the old Berliner Observatory, famous for discovering Neptune. By the end of the 19th century, light pollution was so bad in Berlin, that the observatory moved to the outskirts of Berlin to Potsdam. It still hosts two of the largest refractors in the world. Its campus is magnificent and I love working there. I did my undergrad studies here in Potsdam and then moved to the US for 9 years – first my PhD at UC Davis/LLNL and then to IPAC/Caltech for my first postdoc. I loved my time in California, but I am happy to be back in Germany.

My main scientific focus is Active Galactic Nuclei and their role in galaxy evolution. I especially focus on the very luminous part of these active black holes, also known as quasars. The very luminous quasars are thought to be born in mergers and the energies they release are thought to have an effect on its host galaxy shutting down star formation, though we are still not quite clear of the exact physics behind this. I also work on the MUSE instrument, a giant (1’x1′) 3D spectrograph that was installed on the VLT this January and is expected to begin GO observing this October. I have contributed to the data reduction pipeline, a quite difficult undertaking considering that we need to account for 24 IFUs. I am also a member of the GTO science team. One thing is for sure: MUSE will revolutionize the way we think about deep, high redshift surveys, taking spectra of everything(!) within that square arcmin. I write about my experience with life as a postdoc as well as my science at http://blog.tanya-urrutia.com and usually tweet under @astrobellatrix.

Introducing Brian Balta

This week’s Astrotweeps host is Brian Balta. In short, I like to think of myself as a geologist working in planetary science and I like stuff that melts. I am a petrologist by training, which means I use measurements of the chemistry of rocks to understand how they were made. For astrotweeps relevance, my last 5 years have been spent mostly working on meteorites from Mars and the asteroid 4 Vesta and I occasionally brag about having pieces of Mars sitting on my counter.

You’re catching me at an interesting personal time. I’ve spent the last 5 years as a postdoc at the University of Tennessee, but I just moved to a position as a visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh where starting next week I will be teaching classes in geology and petrology as well as trying to continue research and searching for a permanent job (someone please hire me?). I have a BS in geology from Indiana University and a PhD in geology from Caltech. I also am a regular contributor to science outreach through the Facebook groups The Earth Story and The Universe. I run the blog version of TES and although I have a personal account I do most of my twitter work running the account @theearthstory and hope some of you will follow me over at those pages. While here I’m hoping to get a chance to talk about meteorites, Mars, igneous rocks, the early solar system, our outreach pages, and some of the things I’m dealing with as an early career scientist trying to find a permanent job.

Introducing Jennifer Grier

Dr. Grier is a Senior Scientist and Education Specialist with the Planetary Science Institute, in Tucson, AZ (although she works remotely from her base in MD.)  Her usual haunts are her blog and her twitter account.  

Her research interests and areas of expertise include:  analysis of multispectral images of terrestrial planets and asteroids, thermal impact crater formation and morphology, and chronologies of impact events and solid surfaces through examination of remote sensing and isotopic age data.  Some of her specific research has:  determined the relative ages of rayed impact craters on the Moon through optical maturity of crater ejecta, dated fluvial channels on Mars with impact crater statistics, found the ages of thermal impact events on asteroids by examination of meteorites, and estimated the time of formation of the Gardnos impact structure on Earth.
In addition to research, Dr. Grier has broad interests in science education and public outreach.  These interests include:  scientist engagement in E/PO, the development of critical thinking skills, and imparting an understanding of our context within the Solar System and larger universe.  Some of her specific education work has included:  working with school systems to develop science curricula, partnering with science museums to vet exhibit content, offering professional development workshops to teachers and Girl Scout leaders, and teaching classes at the university level.

When not engaged in research or education projects, Dr. Grier:  writes and reads science fiction stories and poetry, blogs at “Fictional Planet”, makes and sells beaded gemstone jewelry, goes wine tasting, plays video games, and thinks about getting a cat.

Introducing Chris Lintott

Chris Lintott is a researcher at the University of Oxford, where he leads the team of people responsible for the Zooniverse.org collection of citizen science projects. Volunteers have used the Zooniverse to classify galaxies, discover planets, explore the Milky Way and do a lot of non-astronomicalthings too. His own research is on galaxy evolution and formation, mostly using data from Galaxy Zoo to think about the effect of galaxy mergers. His background is a little closer to home, having completed a PhD at University College London mostly on the chemistry of star formation; he’s a big fan of triply-deuterated ammonia but likes sulphur compounds the best.

Chris is best known (in the UK at least) as the co-presenter of the BBC’s long-running Sky at Night program, a monthly look at the worlds of astronomy and astrophysics. This has taken him to observatories around the world, and he once interviewed Eugene Cernan in Mission Control, Houston. He also once got the age of the Universe wrong on camera by a factor of a million. Chris writes for the Times and is currently up to his eyeballs in text for a book about crowdsourcing which is due out next year; he wrote ‘Bang’ and the ‘Cosmic Tourist’ with the late Patrick Moore and Queen guitarist Brian May.

Away from research, Chris answers email. Away from email, he can be found cooking, watching theatre or opera or shouting loudly at the Chicago Fire and Torquay United. He also plays real tennis.