Introducing Matthew R. Francis

Matthew R. Francis [] is a science journalist, public speaker, educator, and wearer of jaunty hats. He received a PhD from Rutgers University in 2006, where he studied galaxy cluster cosmology, dark energy, and the mathematical structure of gravitational theories. After finishing his doctorate, he taught college and directed a small planetarium in Tennessee.
Since 2011, Matthew has been a full-time science writer, covering astronomy, physics, planetary science, and social issues within science. His articles have been published in Physics World, Symmetry, Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine, Mosaic, Slate, NOVA, and many others. [Link to portfolio: ] He uses his background in research and teaching to help in his writing. As someone who made the transition from academic science to journalism, he mentors others who are interested in making a similar transition.
Beyond science, Matthew is finishing his first novel (well, since his teenage writings, which are best forgotten). He enjoys playing music, reading comics, talking about his cats, and taking Star Wars far too seriously. He is on Twitter @DrMRFrancis more than he should be.

Introducing Steve Crawford

Steve Crawford is the SALT Science Data Manager at the South African Astronomical Observatory. His primary responsibilities include managing the data archives for the Southern African Large Telescope and producing the data pipeline for observations from the telescope. When not helping to run SALT, he carries out research looking at star forming galaxies in galaxies clusters, but is generally interested in how to use optical observations to learn new things about our Universe. He also helps train the next generation of astronomers in South Africa as a lecturing in the National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme, develop new instrumentation, and is a contributor to the Astropy project, particularly for development of optical data reduction and analysis software.

Steve Crawford grew up in southern New Jersey just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, which has led to a lifelong obsession and heartbreak with Philly sports teams. He obtained a BA in astronomy and physics from the University of Virginia, and then a PhD in astronomy from the University of Wisconsin on star forming galaxies in galaxies clusters. Almost 10 years ago, he moved to Cape Town and spends his time playing Ultimate Frisbee, being outdoors, or traveling.

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 Doug Burke

This week features Doug Burke.Doug is a Research Astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO),  which is co-located with the Harvard College Observatory (HCO), forming the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). Not content with this barrage of names, his position allows him to add that he is a member of the Science Data Systems (SDS) team of the Chandra X-ray Center (CXC). What this barrage of Three-Letter Acronyms (TLA) means is that most of his time is spent on helping Scientists analyze data taken by the Chandra X-ray satellite, one of NASA’s four Great Observatories.

When not helping others, Doug’s research interests are in using Galaxy Clusters to study the structure and evolution of the Universe; using computers to better help us with all this data we find ourselves with (in particular, in how Open Science, semantic technologies, machine learning, functional programming, and other buzz words can help); and exploring how Astronomers use Twitter, in particular at the American Astronomical Society meetings.

Doug tweets at @doug_burke, google plusses at, has code on both GitHub and BitBucket , occasionally shares data on FigShare, likes the Oxford
comma, and is currently wondering why he agreed to do this the same week as he’s madly preparing Halloween decorations for his kids.