Introducing Alexis Lavail

Alexis Lavail (@astro_alexis) is a third-year PhD student at Uppsala University, Sweden. His scientific research is focused on the study of magnetic fields of cool stars, particularly pre-main-sequence stars and M dwarfs, using high-resolution near-IR spectroscopy and/or optical spectropolarimetry. Alexis also participates in the CRIRES+ project, upgrading the Very Large Telescope’s CRIRES (near-infrared high-resolution) spectrograph. Together with colleagues in Uppsala, they designed the spectropolarimetry unit that they are currently manufacturing and assembling. Expect tweets about stellar magnetic fields and photos of shiny astronomical instrument parts.

Non-workwise, Alexis might be found taking long walks, brewing beer, baking bread, and feeling sad that there are still people who use Comic Sans.

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 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.

Introducing Sarah Tuttle

Sarah Tuttle was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California.  She received her PhD in Astronomy from Columbia University where she flew balloons for a living.  They mostly only crashed in a controlled way, on purpose.  She currently works for McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas at Austin building astronomical instruments and hunting dark energy. As the instrument scientist for VIRUS, she is building a massively replicated spectrograph that takes 33,600 simultaneous spectra to feed 150 identical spectrographs.  When she finishes building them all.  Her science interests currently meander through topics in galaxy evolution, especially gas and the regulation of star formation.   She lives with her husband and children in Austin.  When she isn’t swinging wrenches in the name of science, she is chasing chickens in the backyard or checking on the family beehive.  Sarah loves academia enough to believe it is broken, but worth fixing. She would be happy to fight a cage match about ways we can improve our gender, racial, and socio-economic diversity as a field.

Sarah’s Astrotweeps week can be found here: