Peter Maksym grew up in Wheaton, IL, just a bike ride from Fermilab, and was just learning high school physics when the top quark was discovered. He makes no pretensions to being nearly as awesome as Edwin Hubble or Grote Reber, even though they came from Wheaton, too. After earning his Bachelor’s in astronomy & physics at Yale, Peter worked briefly as an automated publishing consultant in New York, then for 5 years as a data specialist for the Chandra X-ray Observatory. He returned to the Chicago area for his Ph.D. at Northwestern University, is now in the third year of a postdoctoral position at the University of Alabama, and is actively looking for his next position (hire me! –PM). He normally tweets as @StellarBones (Dammit Jim, he’s a doctor, not a physician). His experience as an astrophysicist has been remarkably similar to that of Natalie Portman’s character in “Thor”. He’s also been known to perform improv comedy on occasion.
Peter’s interested in other kinds of “stellar bones”. He’s particularly interested the process of stars being ripped to shreds by the massive black holes which commonly inhabit the hearts of galaxies. These “tidal disruption events” comprise an emerging field with the potential to test extreme accretion physics and black hole populations. He’s also involved in the Galaxy Zoo, currently using extended emission line regions to study galaxies which may have just “shut down” from quasars. Both of these topics coincidentally involve extreme black hole variability, but on very different timescales. He’s more generally interested in black holes of all sizes, and quite a lot of different things involving galaxies and galaxy clusters. His favorite astronomical tools include fine-toothed combs, the kitchen sink, and boneheaded perseverance.