Introducing Nancy Hine

Nancy Hine is a PhD student at the University of Hertfordshire. Her work focuses on high redshift galaxies and in particular how environment influences their evolution from highly star forming to passive galaxies. This includes galaxy mergers and the flow of cold gas into galaxies to fuel star formation. Her Master’s project focused on the identification of extremely red galaxies and the use of photometric redshift fitting to differentiate between high redshift and very dusty low redshift galaxies. She obtained her physics degree from the Open University, studying part time for 6 years as part of a career change. In her previous career she was an accountant, working as a senior audit manger for Ernst & Young in London.

Nancy enjoys doing outreach, mostly at Bayfordbury Observatory, where she gives talks on the solar system, planetarium shows and telescope tours to groups from schools, cubs and brownies etc. A more unusual activity involved displaying a poster on her research at the World Science Fiction Convention in London last summer. She is also Chair of the South East Physics Network (SEPnet) Postgraduate Student Representative Panel and a member of her department’s Equality Committee. So far the highlight of her career in astronomy has been observing at the James Clarke Maxwell Telescope, on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Nancy can normally be found at @nancyhine.

Introducing Kyle Willett

Kyle Willett is a postdoc in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Minnesota. His research concentrates on galaxies, especially their evolution over cosmic time as a population. He is a member of the science teams for two citizen science projects, Galaxy Zoo and Radio Galaxy Zoo, and works extensively on data reduction pipelines, designing new projects and data sets for the interfaces, and improving the tools and communication with citizen scientists that help provide the science teams with data. He secretly wishes he got to spend more time with Snapshot Serengeti, where he dreams of someday finding the elusive zorilla

Kyle did his undergraduate work at Carleton College, where he got drawn in to astronomy by getting to work on multiple observing runs for pulsars at Parkes Observatory. Working for a summer at Lowell Observatory uncovered his nascent love for mountains, which he climbed/ran up as much as possible up during his PhD at the University of Colorado. His thesis work focused on properties of OH megamasers and their host galaxies, including uses of telescopes like the VLA, Green Bank, Arecibo, and Spitzer. His quest to visit all ten of the VLBA dishes is 50% complete so far. 

He normally can be found on Twitter at @kwwillett

Introducing Michael West

Michael West is Director of the Maria Mitchell Observatory, named for the first woman astronomer in the United States and located on the picturesque island of Nantucket. He obtained his PhD in astronomy from Yale University in 1987 and has held positions around the world, including as ESO’s Head of Science in Chile, Head of Science Operations at the Gemini South telescope, and a tenured professor at the University of Hawaii. Michael’s research interests include the formation and evolution of galaxies, galaxy clusters, globular clusters, and the large-scale structure of the universe.

Public outreach is one of Michael’s passions. He served as chief astronomy content developer for the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii, a $28 million NASA-funded science center that opened in 2006. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Sky & Telescope, Astronomy magazine, and more. In 2005, he authored a prize-winning book titled A Gentle Rain of Starlight: The Story of Astronomy on Mauna Kea and his new book, A Sky Wonderful with Stars: 50 Years of Modern Astronomy on Maunakeawill be published by the University of Hawaii Press in July 2015.

Michael will become the new Deputy Director for Science at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ starting August 2015, and can normally be found tweeting at @ACKstronomy.

Introducing Cayman Unterborn

I am a 5th year Ph.D Candidate at The Ohio State University working in the School of Earth Science. My research looks at what it takes to build a habitable planet from a geologic perspective rather than the more traditional definition of the “habitable zone”. My work blends astronomy, geology and physics to understand which planetary compositions produce a planet able to sustain liquid water on its surface as well as control the carbon content of the atmosphere. On the Earth, this regulation of water/carbon is a consequence of plate tectonics, which in turn is driven by compositional differences in the mantle and an internal heat budget great enough to support interior convection. My previous work has looked at some of the extremes of this “geologic habitable zone”, such as so called “diamond planets” as well as measuring stellar Thorium abundance as a proxy for extrasolar heat budgets. The end goal of my research is to understand just how special the Earth may be with regards to it being habitable, or perhaps there are a range of compositions, perhaps even very un-Earth-like ones, that are able to produce dynamic planets capable of sustaining surface water and maybe even conditions to support life.