Re-introducing Meg Schwamb

Meg Schwamb is currently an assistant scientist at Gemini Observatory. She also serves as the NIRI (Near-InfraRed Imager) instrument scientist at Gemini North in Hilo, Hawai’i.  She is a planetary scientist and astronomer focusing on understanding how planets and their building blocks form and evolve. Starting later this year, Meg will be island hopping. She’ll be leaving the Big Island of Hawai’i and heading to Northern Ireland.  Later this year, Meg will be joining Queen’s University Belfast as a lecturer in the Astrophysics Research Centre.

Meg uses large surveys to probe the small body reservoirs in the Solar System. Her work focuses on studying the orbital and surface properties of Kuiper belt objects, like Pluto in the Outer Solar System.  Meg is currently serving as co-chair of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Solar System Science Collaboration. Meg also mines large datasets via citizen science, enlisting hundreds of thousands of people worldwide in the research effort. She is currently involved in the  Planet Four , Planet Four: Terrains, Planet Four: Ridges citizen science projects to respectively map seasonal fans on the south pole of Mars, characterize surface features on the Martian South Pole and map polygonal ridges in the Martian mid latitudes

You can find Meg on twitter at @megschwamb


Reintroducing Chris Lintott

Chris Lintott is a professor of astrophysics at the University of Oxford, where he leads the team of people responsible for the collection of citizen science projects. Volunteers have used the Zooniverse to classify galaxies, discover planets (and perhaps but probably not an alien megastructure), catch supernovae and do a lot of non-astronomical things too. His own research is on galaxy evolution and formation, mostly using data from Galaxy Zoo to think about what changes star formation in galaxies. 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 long-running Sky at Night program, a monthly look at the worlds of astronomy and astrophysics. This has taken him to all sorts of places, including the control room for ESA’s Rosetta mission which ends this week. He also once got the age of the Universe wrong on camera by a factor of a million. 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, which is far superior to the young upstart lawn tennis.

Most other days, you can find Chris on twitter at @chrislintott

Introducing James Sprinks

James Sprinks is a Research Associate in Planetary Science / Human Factors at the University of Nottingham’s Geospatial Institute. His current research involves the FP7 iMars project (, the broad aims of which are to develop tools and 3D models of the Martian surface through the co-registration of NASA and ESA mission data dating from the Viking missions of the 1970’s to the present day, for a much more comprehensive interpretation of the geomorphological and climatic processes that have taken and do take place. James’ involvement concentrates on the development of a Citizen Science Platform that allows the online public to analyse change on the surface of Mars. Through doing this the aim is to better understand how task design, interface design, data presentation techniques and communication tools can be best utilised to ensure the best possible user experience whilst ensuring the data produced is still scientifically robust.

Coming from a physics and astronomy background originally, James completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Southampton. His final year dissertation involved the study of binary star systems, specifically cataclysmic dwarf novae and the prediction models associated with their behaviour. After several years working in the education sector, he returned to academia to complete a masters degree in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) through a co-ordinated scheme involving the University of Leeds, University of Southampton and Penn State University, USA. His research involved the use of GIS techniques to map the distribution and geometric properties of barchan sand dunes on the surface of Mars.

Cornish born and bred, James enjoys the outdoors, sea and sand. A keen Cornish Pirates RFC supporter, he attempts to play rugby at a sub-standard level, and badminton only slightly better! When not studying or attempting to play sport, James can be found either half way up a mountain somewhere or underneath some cats, Spotty and Optimus (he didn’t name them). You can find out about James’ research on his website:

Introducing Richard Scalzo

This week’s Astrotweeps host is Richard Scalzo.  Richard earned his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Chicago in 2004, where he contributed to the design, construction, and operation of the STACEE high-energy gamma ray telescope.  He has held postdoctoral positions in astrophysics at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Yale University, and most recently at the Australian National University, where he studied the progenitors and explosion physics of type Ia supernovae.  At ANU, he also led the ongoing development and operation of a search for type Ia supernovae in data from the SkyMapper robotic telescope, including the crowdsourced “Snapshot Supernova” project in collaboration with the Zooniverse citizen science community, as featured on BBC Two’s Stargazing Live in March 2015.
Richard currently works as a Research Engineer in the new Centre for Translational Data Science at the University of Sydney.  His main role is to develop probabilistic graphical models of human metabolism, to be deployed for discovery in basic biological science and for personalized medicine.  He remains engaged with the astronomical community and hopes to continue working on astronomy-related data science projects from time to time.  He tweets as @scalzonova on Twitter.

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 Karen Masters

Dr. Karen Masters is an astronomer studying extragalactic astronomy at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, University of Portsmouth. She uses information from large surveys of the sky to search for clues about how galaxies formed and evolve over cosmic time. This includes information on the shapes and types of galaxies provided by citizen scientists via the Galaxy Zoo project ( Dr. Masters has been a member of the Galaxy Zoo science team since 2008, and Project Scientist since 2013.

Karen is also a member of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey – the survey which provided the original images for Galaxy Zoo. She is Director of Outreach and Public Engagement for SDSS as well as having leading role in the MaNGA (Mapping Nearby Galaxies at APO) survey which has just recently started observations on the Sloan telescope.

Karen normally tweets about her adventures in astronomy research as @KarenLMasters.

Introducing Bill Keel

This week, March 3-9, 2014, we hear from Bill Keel, professor of astronomy at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. After study at Vanderbilt University and the University of California at Santa Cruz, he spent postdoctoral terms at Kitt Peak National Observatory and Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands before taking his position at Alabama (a quarter-century ago). His research interests center on galaxies – active galaxies, interacting galaxies, dust in galaxies, history of galaxies; you get the picture. He approaches astronomy with a distinct observer’s viewpoint – more data, please! This makes Bill a connoisseur of telescopes, and he maintains amateur status as well with a couple of telescopes hauled out frequently on his deck at home. In recent years much of his observing has been by remote control, which can be convenient and affords much greater opportunities for feline “assistance”. He’s worked with data not only in visible light, but radio, infrared, ultraviolet, and X-rays, since the Universe cares about our instrumental divisions of the electromagnetic spectrum even less than it cares about our division of knowledge among academic departments. Much of his most interesting research in recent years came about as spinoff projects of the Galaxy Zoo citizen-science initiative, in particular unraveling the nature of the giant cloud known as Hanny’s Voorwerp and its smaller relatives. He enjoys conducting many public-outreach activities, such as Live Astronomy remote-observation sessions as part of the Space Track programming at DragonCon each year. Bill is also a weekend trombonist; one ballroom dance-band leader thinks it’s funny to ask him to do melody turns on “Stars Fell on Alabama”, “Stardust”, and “Fly Me to the Moon”. The rest of the year, you can find his tweets as @NGC3314.

Introducing Kevin Schawinski

This week, February 3-8, 2014, features Kevin Schawinski. Kevin is an assistant professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland (ETHZ). His research focuses on supermassive black holes. Where do they come from, how do they grow, and how do they shape the galaxies they live in? Almost all galaxies have a supermassive black hole at their center and these black holes seem to be linked to their host galaxies in such a fundamental way that we’re not sure what was there first: the black hole, or the galaxy. Kevin uses data from pretty much all wavelengths, from ultra-hard X-rays to the radio to tackle these questions. Kevin is also the co-founder of the Galaxy Zoo and regularly gives outreach talks in Switzerland. You can find him on Twitter at @kevinschawinski

Introducing Meg Schwamb

This week, January 27-February 1, 2014, features Meg Schwamb. Meg is an Academia Sinica Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Academia Sinica (ASIAA) in Taipei, Taiwan. She is a planetary scientist and astronomer interested in planet formation and the evolution of planetary systems including our own Solar System. She is searching for exoplanets with the Planet Hunters citizen science project, which enlists members of the general public to search for the signatures of transiting exoplanets in data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft. Meg uses the results from Planet Hunters classifications  to explore the frequencies of planetary systems. In addition, Meg is a science team member of  Planet Four , a citizen science project to study the Martian climate  by utilizing human pattern recognition to map seasonal fans on the South Pole of Mars.  Meg also has studied the small body populations of the outer Solar System in the Kuiper belt and beyond. In her spare time, she can usually be found baking and hanging out with her black cat Stella. The other 51 weeks of the year, you can find Meg at @megschwamb.