Introducing Richard Easther

Prof Richard Easther is an astrophysicist at the University of Auckland, in New Zealand. Easther’s work spans topics in astrophysics and particle cosmology. These range from the behaviour of dark matter on galactic scales, through to the cosmology of the “multiverse”, observational signatures of the hypothetical “inflationary” era, and the possible cosmological implications of string theory.

Easther is a New Zealander, and completed his undergraduate degree and PhD at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, graduating with his doctorate in 1994. He held post-doctoral positions at Waseda in Tokyo, Brown in Providence. Rhode Island, and Columbia in New York City. Easther became a faculty member in Physics and Astronomy at Yale University from 2004. He returned to New Zealand at the end of 2011, moving home to take up a professorship at the University of Auckland, where he is currently Head of Department [Chair] of Physics.

An enthusiastic teacher, Easther has led a major overhaul of the undergraduate physics curriculum at the University of Auckland, and he is a co-founder of the university’s Science Scholars programme. Easther has been involved with a number of initiatives to improve equity outcomes, and he is a frequent commentator on science and technology issues in New Zealand. His blog is at excursionset.com, he is on twitter at @reasther and his group’s homepage is at cosmology.auckland.ac.nz

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Introducing Jielai Zhang

During her PhD at the University of Toronto, Jielai (@zhangjielai) helped build the Dragonfly Telephoto Array, the world’s best telescope for low surface brightness observations of the Universe. She led the development of the image processing software for Dragonfly. The team, led by Prof. Roberto
Abraham and Prof. Pieter van Dokkum, discovered a new class of galaxies called ultra-diffuse galaxies, a subset of which has been shown to be strangely devoid of dark matter.  Jielai also led studies of galaxy disks and dust in the Milky Way, co-supervised by Prof. Peter Martin.

For her first postdoc, Jielai is pivoting to medical imaging on a Schmidt Science Fellowship. She is in Prof. Alison Noble’s group working on applications of deep learning for fetal health monitoring. Her goal is to produce atlases of the developing fetal brain using 3D ultrasound data for fetuses affected by congenital heart disease or were born small for their gestational age. She will also use routine fetal ultrasound videos and related multi-modal data to explore the systematic improvement of clinical image recording.

Equipped with new image analysis and deep learning techniques, Jielai will move to Australia in late 2019 to uncover the mysteries of how the Universe changes second to second.

Introducing Sarah McIntyre

I’m Sarah McIntyre (@ExoBioExplorer) a PhD student at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University.

My current research aims to examine the effect that a diverse range of astronomical and planetary parameters have on an exoplanet’s ability to sustain liquid water. I spend most of my time working on exoplanet models and simulations and doing lab experiments. Long term research plans include helping determine optimal targets for near-future ground- and space-based observations of planetary atmospheres and the potential detection of life in space.

When not exploring exoplanets I read (lately mainly about AI/machine learning), compose, play piano (or violin) and travel.

Introducing Keaton Bell

Hi, I’m Keaton Bell (@astrokeat), an observational astronomer interested in all things stellar astrophysics, time domain surveys, pulsating variable stars, white dwarf stars and exoplanets. I earned my PhD at the University of Texas at Austin, where I spent 225 nights observing variable white dwarf systems at McDonald Observatory.  As a postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen, Germany, I am currently focused on developing tools for classifying large numbers of variable stars observed by space missions like Kepler and TESS.  I am excited to begin searching for the first planets transiting white dwarf stars in data from the Zwicky Transient Facility as a NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Washington this fall.

In my free time I enjoy playing guitar in our institute’s band, watching live music, reading, cooking, and traveling around Europe as much as I can while I’m living here.

Introducing Oliver Hall

Oliver Hall (@asteronomer) is a 3rd year PhD student with the Sun, Stars & Exoplanets group at the University of Birmingham in the UK. His work is centered around the use of asteroseismology: the study of sound waves inside stars through variations we see on their surfaces. Asteroseismology is a useful tool that can give us masses and radii of stars, and can be compared to models to discover all kinds of things about stellar interiors.

Oliver is currently studying the synergies between asteroseismology and distances from the Gaia mission for stars observed by the Kepler space telscope, and hopes to soon set his sighs on stars observed by the K2 mission as well. He also participates in collaborations such as TESS Data for Asteroseismology (T’DA), working with an international group of astronomers to prepare high quality lightcurves from brand new data from the TESS space telescope, and has contributed to popular open source code such as lightkurve.

Oliver grew up abroad in Bussum in the Netherlands, before moving back to the UK for his undergraduate degree, also at Birmingham. While waiting for his code to run he can be found on twitter and writing for Astrobites. Outside of research, he loves reading, music, exploring, and pretty much every form of media.

Introducing Jo Barstow

Jo Barstow is a specialist in exoplanet atmospheres, with a particular interest in spectral retrievals and cloud properties. She is currently a Royal Astronomical Society Research Fellow at University College London, performing comparative studies of exoplanet atmospheres. She balances part time work with caring for her toddler daughter. Although she doesn’t get much time for it at the moment, she is also a keen amateur singer, actress and musician and is now an expert sheet music/toddler juggler.

Introducing Bruce Macintosh

Bruce Macintosh is an astronomer studying extrasolar planets with high-contrast imaging. His PhD was at UCLA graduating in 1994, when UCLA was first starting its world-class infrared instrumentation lab – Bruce worked on the Gemini 2-channel IR camera for Lick Observatory. After that, he took a postdoc at Lawrence Livermore National Lab and then becomes a staff scientist at LLNL through 2013. At LLNL he worked on adaptive optics systems at Lick and Keck Observatory, and was one of the founders of the NSF Center for Adaptive Optics.

Together with Christian Marois, Bruce led the team that used Keck adaptive optics to make the first-ever images of an exoplanet system – the four young giant planets orbiting HR8799. He is the Principal Investigator for the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), an advanced AO coronagraph now on the Gemini South Telescope carrying out a survey for young planets. He also co-leads a coronagraph science team for the WFIRST instrument. He is active in astro science policy, having served on the ground-based optical/IR panel for the 2010 Decadal Survey, the Mid-Decadal Survey, and the just-completed Exoplanet Science Strategy panel.