Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes. ~ Edsger Dijkstra

Yesterday my Dad asked me, “Who are you to the astronomical community?” In my day to day life I am a graduate students. I have been taking classes, passing exams (most recently my qualifying exam, yay!), and learning everything I can about supernovae. But there are so many ways in which this does not encompass me. A year ago I was the keynote speaker at the Python in Astronomy conference, sharing my experience founding and running a group of graduate students, post-docs, and faculty to discuss software and coding techniques in the same way group meetings discuss science. I have maintained the Python lesson for Software Carpentry and started and continue to run the Software Carpentry Workshop at the winter AAS meeting. More recently, I am co-PI of an AIP Venture Partner grant to create a Data Carpentry lesson for astronomy. Each one of these projects reflects my path to graduate school, which took me through secondary teaching certification and the Space Telescope Science Institute. I love each and every one of these roles and it is the combination that makes me who I am. Some days I am running meetings and other days I am learning a new aspect of spectral analysis that I know I will repeat on every paper I publish. I think who I am to the astronomical community depends on what day you’re asking.


A PhD is a marathon

Its been more than 2 years since my last post (barely). First year was a blur of problem sets, late nights, little sleep, and trying to keep up with research commitments and software carpentry maintenance that took almost all I had to get through. Second year I devoted myself to recovery and quantum mechanics, slowly disentangling myself from prior commitments to allow me to look towards a future of research at UC Davis. This year I’m looking forward to getting started on my thesis and starting to engage the world outside of the UC Davis physics department.

Highlights from the last 2+ years:

  • Finished general physics classes
  • Passed the prelim exam
  • Chose Stefano Valenti as my thesis advisor
  • Chose a thesis topic: doubling the number of identified supernova progenitors using methods other than direct detection
  • Organized the AAS Software Carpentry Workshop (and taught at it) for 2016 and 2017
  • Started a group in the physics department that meets weekly to discuss all things coding
  • Investigated whether precipitable water vapor measurements from GPS stations could be combined with atmospheric models to correct sky lines in ground based spectroscopy
  • Investigated whether the UV source we observed near the progenitor of SN 1993J is in fact the companion to the progenitor
  • Investigated the universality of extinction laws using 10 different long slit observations of different environments in the star cluster 30 Doradus
  • Learned ground based spectroscopic data reduction by reducing many nights of observations (taken over the course of a year) of AS-ASSN 2015oz. Stay tuned for some very interesting results!

At the starting line

After 5 wonderful years at the Space Telescope Science Institute, I have decided to return to school to pursue a PhD in Physics at University of California, Davis. In my few precious moments of free time, I work on these projects:

  • Leading a Software Carpentry Workshop at the American Astronomical Society Conference in January 2015
  • Python topic maintainer for the Software Carpentry Foundation
  • Characterizing the binary companion of Supernova 1993J. Here is a recent paper I worked on. We will be taking more FUV imaging in April 2015 to confirm the companion flux levels in the FUV observationally.
  • Observing the late time UV spectra of type IIn supernovae interacting with circumstellar material.
  • Using the LSST data management pipeline on images of type Ia supernova from the SweetSpot survey to characterize the light curve variability of all objects in the field.

Current Projects

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