Introducing Rachael Alexandroff

I am  Rachael Alexandroff, an NSERC postdoctoral fellow in observational extragalactic astronomy with a joint appointment at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics and the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics.

My research interests focus primarily on extragalactic astronomy. In particular, I am interested in exploringfeedback from actively accreting supermassive black holes (quasars) using a variety of multi-wavelength data in the radio to the X-ray. I previously identified the largest catalog of optically-selected obscured quasars in the early Universe and have been using this catalog to study how quasars effect their surroundings from the local environment to the entire host galaxy. In particular, I search for observational signatures of quasar feedback to help constrain models of galaxy evolution. You can read more here.

In particular, I love to solve interesting problems using a combination of large datasets and targeted observations to elucidate the underlying physics. By constructing models and digging out fundamental correlations we can come to understand the physical principles that govern the myriad disparate observations we are trying to analyze.

I obtained my graduate degree on July 18, 2017 from Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy working for Prof. Nadia Zakamska. Previously, I obtained a bachelor of arts in astrophysical sciences from Princeton University.

I am also very passionate about astronomy education and outreach and am president emeritus of the Physics and Astronomy Graduate Student Outreach group at Johns Hopkins University. I have spoken to groups of 500+ audience members at Astronomy on Tap Toronto and given talks at local libraries, high schools and community centres.

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Re-Introducing Abhijeet Borkar

I am Abhijeet Borkar. I spend most of my time studying the supermassive black holes at the centres of galaxies and their interaction with the host galaxy, particularly using radio interferometry techniques. And the rest of the time I am working as a contact scientist at the Czech node of the European ALMA Regional Center. My research interests include the study of Sagittarius A*, the SMBH at the center of the Milky Way; formation and evolution of the SMBH at the centers of galaxies, active galactic nuclei (AGN).

I did my B.Sc. & M.Sc. in Physics from Pune, India after which I went to do PhD at the University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany, as a part of the International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR). Since my undergraduate days, I have been involved in science communication and outreach and I am actively engaged in outreach online and offline.

I can be found online @borkarabhijeet on Twitter or @borkarabhijeet05 in many other places.

Introducing Steph LaMassa

Dr. Steph LaMassa is a Support Scientist at STScI who works on one of the instrument teams for JWST. Steph’s research focuses on the growth and evolution of supermassive black holes and how they co-evolve with their host galaxies. Steph is also interested in learning how highly variable active galactic nuclei provide insight into black hole feeding habits.
Dr. LaMassa organizes and hosts Astronomy on Tap DC (@AstroOnTapDC), which is an outreach event where astronomers give short, fun talks in a bar! When not working or doing public outreach, Steph enjoys running (albeit very slowly), reading, and going to concerts.

Introducing Peter Boorman

Peter Boorman (@boorm) is a PhD student at the University of Southampton in the UK, where he currently studies hidden monster supermassive black holes actively growing at the centres of galaxies.  These black holes grow by eating material surrounding them which can also act to conceal the active galactic nucleus (AGN) from our view.  This is why Peter relies on high-energy X-ray vision (courtesy of X-ray telescopes in space such as @NASANuSTAR!) to be able to stare through the obscuring layers of gas concealing the AGN, and reveal the hungry black hole lurking beneath.  However, much like Superman’s X-ray vision being blocked by lead, the densest and thickest layers of obscuring gas can even stop the highest energy X-rays from escaping some heavily obscured black holes.
Despite their apparent rarity, it is predicted that there are a very high number of these hiding supermassive black holes out there in the Universe that just haven’t been found yet.  These AGN are essential for understanding the evolution of all supermassive black holes, and hence all galaxies hosting them since the dawn of the Universe over 13 billion years ago.  With observations of galaxies in the local Universe, Peter will figure out how many obscured AGN there are on average, and how many have been missed in the past.  When Peter isn’t spying on the most obscured black hole banquets in the Universe, he enjoys baking cakes and cooking lots of different recipes, as well as running long distances to burn it off!

Introducing James Matthews

James Matthews is postdoctoral researcher at University of Oxford where he tries to understand where the highest energy cosmic rays come from. Cosmic rays are particles with energies up to 100 billion billion electron volts (that’s a lot of energy!) that strike our atmosphere and produce showers of secondary particles, which we can detect at places like the Pierre Auger observatory. Although they were discovered at the start of the 20th century, we still don’t really know where the highest energy cosmic rays come from.
James’ work is mostly theoretical; I do hydrodynamics simulations of outflows from active galactic nuclei (AGN) to see if they produce the observed cosmic rays. AGN are supermassive black holes that shine brightly due to the gas that is falling onto them, meaning they are interesting for all sorts of reasons — not just for cosmic ray astrophysicists! So, he also works on trying to generally understand the outflows and accretion discs that form part of their sometimes confusing behaviour. James’ PhD thesis, completed at the University of Southampton, focused on this topic. Outside of academia James plays guitar and keyboards in a band called Waking Aida and enjoy football, squash and good pubs!

Introducing James Guillochon

James Guillochon is currently a postdoc at the Institute for Theory and Computation in the Harvard astronomy department. He studies the  tidal disruptions of stars by supermassive black holes and supernovae, runs hydrodynamical simulations to figure out their physics, and compares model predictions to observed data. He maintains Vox Charta and the Open Astronomy Catalogs (AKA Astrocats)

Introducing Abigail Stevens

Abigail Stevens is a PhD candidate at the Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. She researches X-ray spectral variability from compact objects (stellar-mass black holes and neutron stars) in order to understand the extreme physics in strong gravitational fields, and is very excited for NICER to be launched in a few months. Abbie is also a “pythonomer” and is involved in the open science community. Previously, Abbie did her MSc at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and her BA at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, USA. In addition to her astronomy research, she enjoys tea, interior design, memes, reading blogs, watching tv, and exploring new places.