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 Matthieu Béthermin

Matthieu Béthermin is a postdoctoral fellow at ESO (European Southern Observatory) headquarter in Garching (Germany). Previously, Matthieu did his PhD thesis at Paris-Sud University. As Paris is a sort of black hole for French people*, he did not manage to escape and did his first postdoc at CEA Saclay (in Paris’ banlieue). An improbable tunnel effect sent him to ESO in Garching close from Munich, where he discovered the German beer Gemütlichkeit.

He studies the evolution of galaxies and focuses particularly on star-forming galaxies at high redshift. The Spitzer and Herschel space telescopes found large populations of galaxies ultra-luminous in the infrared forming more than 100 solar masses of stars per year.  These galaxies are very massive and gas-rich. They are very challenging to explain with theoretical models. Matthieu is a member of several collaborations studying these intriguing galaxies (HerMES, GOODS-Herschel, SPT SMGs). More details will be provided in the tweets. No spoilers! As an ESO fellow, he also has functional duties and chose to work on ALMA. It is a 66-antenna millimeter interferometer built at 5000m of altitude in the Atacama, one of the driest places on Earth.

Matthieu can normally be found at @MatBethermin.

* France is extremely centralized and Paris concentrates most of the top French universities and research centers.

Introducing Molly Peeples

Molly Peeples is an astronomer on the tenure-track at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. Molly’s research is broadly on galaxy evolution, with a focus on how galaxies affect and are affected by all of the universe’s gas that is not currently in galaxies. She also spends a lot of time thinking about the origin and fate of all of the elements in the universe not produced in the Big Bang, and how these “metals” can be exploited to learn about the flows of gas into, within, and out of galaxies. As part of her staff position at STScI, Molly is a member of the team in charge of trying to maximize the scientific outputs of the UV spectrographs (COS and STIS) aboard the Hubble Space Telescope.

Molly grew up in South Carolina, moved to Massachusetts to go to college at MIT, then to Ohio to get her PhD in astronomy at Ohio State. She then spent three years in beautiful southern California as a postdoc at UCLA before moving back east to Baltimore, where she doesn’t plan on moving away from any time soon. Molly also has a blog featuring galaxies and kitties, which is pretty much what you would expect from the description. She usually tweets about astronomy, life as an astronomer, and related science community issues as @astronomolly.

Introducing Amanda Bauer

This week features  Amanda Bauer.  Amanda is a research astronomer and outreach officer at the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) based in Sydney, Australia. She started this 50/50 role one year ago and is still exploring how to maximise both research and science communication without working WAY too much!

Her research explores variations in how galaxies form, how they live their lives, and how they evolve into the diverse array of galaxy species we see today.  She uses surveys with thousands or hundreds of thousands of galaxies, like GAMA and the SAMI Galaxy Survey, to investigate what physical processes regulate star formation inside galaxies that live in different cosmic environments.

Her passion for science communication through her personal @astropixie account has lead to her ability to do this as 50% of her official job. As the first outreach officer at the AAO, she is developing a strategy to capture and communicate the excitement of new astronomical discoveries and innovative engineering feats occurring within the AAO and the astronomical community.

Introducing Laura Watkins

This week features Laura Watkins, a postdoc at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.  Laura’s research focuses on the dynamics of stars in globular clusters in the Milky Way. By comparing observations against dynamical models, she learns about their structures and how they formed and evolved. She also models the dynamics of the satellite systems of the Milky Way and Andromeda in order to understand their origins and to weigh the host galaxies. Laura is part of the HSTPROMO collaboration, using HST proper motion measurements to study all sorts of weird and wonderful astrophysical objects.
Laura was born and raised in the UK.  She did her PhD at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge and then spent 3 years as a postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg before moving to STScI a year ago. When not being an astronomer, Laura loves ballroom and latin dancing. She also likes reading, baking and travelling. She tweets at @laurawatkins_.

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 Tanya Urrutia

My name is Tanya Urrutia and I am a postdoc at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics in Potsdam, Germany. It is an institute with quite a history as it once was the old Berliner Observatory, famous for discovering Neptune. By the end of the 19th century, light pollution was so bad in Berlin, that the observatory moved to the outskirts of Berlin to Potsdam. It still hosts two of the largest refractors in the world. Its campus is magnificent and I love working there. I did my undergrad studies here in Potsdam and then moved to the US for 9 years – first my PhD at UC Davis/LLNL and then to IPAC/Caltech for my first postdoc. I loved my time in California, but I am happy to be back in Germany.

My main scientific focus is Active Galactic Nuclei and their role in galaxy evolution. I especially focus on the very luminous part of these active black holes, also known as quasars. The very luminous quasars are thought to be born in mergers and the energies they release are thought to have an effect on its host galaxy shutting down star formation, though we are still not quite clear of the exact physics behind this. I also work on the MUSE instrument, a giant (1’x1′) 3D spectrograph that was installed on the VLT this January and is expected to begin GO observing this October. I have contributed to the data reduction pipeline, a quite difficult undertaking considering that we need to account for 24 IFUs. I am also a member of the GTO science team. One thing is for sure: MUSE will revolutionize the way we think about deep, high redshift surveys, taking spectra of everything(!) within that square arcmin. I write about my experience with life as a postdoc as well as my science at and usually tweet under @astrobellatrix.