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.

Introducing Ana Weigel

Anna Weigel (@annakweigel) is a third year Ph.D. student at ETH Zurich in Switzerland. Her research focuses on the connection between galaxies and their black holes. Specifically she studies if and how active black holes might be shutting down star formation in their host galaxies. Instead of closely examining single objects, Anna is combining phenomenological and statistical approaches. This means looking for trends and correlations in the local galaxy population as a whole.

Anna received her B.S. in physics from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany and then moved to Switzerland for her M.Sc. in physics at ETH. Before starting her Ph.D., she spent three months at the Swinburne Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing in beautiful Melbourne. Anna enjoys teaching, which is part of her Ph.D. student duties, and doing outreach. For example, building galaxies with kids has taught her that 7-year olds and glitter glue do not mix well. From time to time Anna also likes to visualise science in the form of delicious cakes.

Introducing Elaina Hyde

I am currently a part time lecturer at the University of Western Sydney in Australia as well as the Information Support Officer for the International Telescope Office at the Australian Astronomical Observatory. I also do public astronomy tours as a guide at Sydney Observatory. All this is motivated by my passion for astronomy, physics and exploration. This passion has led me through a bachelor’s in Astronomy and Physics (with minors in Optical Engineering and Planetary Sciences) at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, a research program at the Max-Plank Institute, a masters program in Astrophysics from the University of Amsterdam and my PhD studies at Macquarie University. These studies allowed me to participate in research on both optical spectra, abundances, and kinematics as well as lithographic construction of photonic crystals for use in submillimeter and radio astronomy; planetary sciences and engineering pnCCDs for X-ray astronomy.

I am very interested in observational astronomy as well as the theory behind it, and, yes, even the data management. I participated in the project ASTRO in Tucson, Arizona where we used both theory and observations to involve school teachers and their classes in astronomical research. I also enjoy giving public talks and participating in public observing or ‘star parties’ where the knowledge that I have gained can be shared with the larger community. I find the study of stars and binary stars in late stages of stellar evolution very exciting. I also enjoy planetary sciences, Archaeo-astronomy, and space sciences (in particular Mars satelite imagery via THEMIS) and exoplanet studies, although so far these have been mostly investigated in my free time. For my current science research I am primarily interested in the study of spectral features and the use of ground-based as well as space-based observatories to pursue the realm of Galactic Archaeology and Stellar Streamers in our own local group in particular the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy and its associated stream. Most recently I submitted conference proceedings for the recent ADASS meeting in Sydney on data selection techniques and a paper on the interesting black hole binary LMC X-1 from the perspective of the O star.

Introducing Jane Rigby

This week’s Astrotweeps host is Jane Rigby. Jane is an astrophysicist whose research focuses on the evolution of galaxies over cosmic time, the growth of supermassive black holes, and spectroscopic diagnostics. Jane is a civil servant at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center outside Washington, DC. She serves as a Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope.

She was an organizer of Inclusive Astronomy 2015, and serves on the American Astronomical Society’s Committee for Sexual-Orientation and Gender Minorities in Astronomy (SGMA).

Jane has given numerous public lectures, at venues including TEDxMidAtlantic and the Library of Congress. She has blogged for AstroBetter and Las Campanas Belles.

She lives in Maryland with her wife and their preschooler. Her website is and she normally tweets at @janerrigby.

Introducing Ivy Wong

Ivy Wong is an Australian astronomer working as an Australian Research Council’s Super Science Fellow in Perth at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) hosted by the University of Western Australia. Unfortunately, even though she’s a Super Science Fellow, she doesn’t get a cape… She studies how galaxies start and stop forming stars, grow supermassive black holes and how galaxies have come to look like they do today. Her plans are to use the new telescopes being built in Western Australia to help her figure out the answers to some of these questions. You can also help Ivy with her research as a citizen scientist. Check out and help her find black holes in distant galaxies!

Ivy received her PhD from the University of Melbourne in 2008. She then worked at Yale University and CSIRO (Sydney) before moving to Perth and ICRAR. Ivy can normally be found at @owning_ivy.

Introducing Jay Strader

Jay is an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Michigan State University. Recently his research has centered around compact binaries in the Milky Way, especially searches for accreting black holes in globular clusters. His interests also include the distribution of dark matter around galaxies, the formation of stellar halos, and the initial mass function of stars in massive star clusters.
From 2007-2012 he was a Hubble Fellow and Menzel Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He earned his BS in Physics and Mathematics at Duke University, and his PhD at the University of California-Santa Cruz. As his Twitter biography says (@caprastro), he loves “goats, birds, the Celtics, and globular clusters”.

Introducing Peter Maksym

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.