Welcome! I am a postdoctoral fellow in the ISM group at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI, aka "the Tute") in Baltimore, MD. I completed my PhD in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in August 2017. Before that, I attended Carleton College in Northfield, MN where I received B.A. in Physics in June 2011.

I spend my time thinking about how star-forming material cycles through the local interstellar medium (ISM) in various ionized, dusty, neutral and molecular phases. I am particularly interested in decoding the structure of the ISM and the nature of gas flows in galaxies.

That's me pictured, suspended 130 meters above the Arecibo Observatory's 305-meter dish!

RESEARCH INTERESTS

Galaxy evolution is driven by where, when and how stars form. In particular, the flow of material through the interstellar medium (ISM) -- from diffuse plasma to molecular, star-forming clouds -- is crucial. I use sensitive radio observations of neutral hydrogen (HI) and molecular gas to trace this flow in the Galactic and Magellanic ISM.

21-SPONGE

I am a leading member of "21-cm Spectral Line Observations of Neutral Gas with the VLA", the largest, most sensitive survey of Galactic HI absorption at the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA). To detect the cold and warm neutral ISM simultaneously, I developed novel calibration strategies for improving 21cm sensitivity.

Unexpectedly warm neutral medium

I detected absorption by the warm neutral medium (WNM) with unexpectedly high excitation temperature , indicating that Lyman-alpha scattering is important for HI excitation, with consequences for disentangling astrophysical effects from HI signals throughout cosmic time.

Autonomous Gaussian Decomposition

I helped to develop an automatic method to decompose spectra into Gaussian functions using derivative spectroscopy and supervised machine learning. The code, GaussPy, is written in Python and is publicly available!

Connecting observations with numerical simulations

Using AGD, I conducted detailed comparisons between 21-SPONGE and 3D numerical simulations, demonstrating how and where 21cm spectra recover "true" ISM conditions.

Optically-thick HI and local "dark" gas

Based on a large sample of 21 cm absorption lines, I found that optically-thick HI does not dominate the "dark" gas mass budget in the local ISM , rather it is a combination of intrinsic variations in dust grain emissivity and H2 undetected by standard tracers. Using machine learning techniques, I plan to characterize the nature of cold, optically-thick HI on large scales.

Mysterious Magellanic molecules

I detected the first evidence for absorption by HCO+ in the Magellanic System -- a low-metallicity, dynamically complex neighbor to the Milky Way providing a important laboratory for molecule formation at high redshift..

CURRICULUM VITAE

My CV is linked here. A summary is included below:

Education

  • 2017 — Ph.D. Astronomy, minor: Physics, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • 2013 — M.S. Astronomy, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • 2011 — B.A. Physics, Carleton College, Magna cum laude

Research Experience

  • 2017-present — Postdoctoral fellow (STScI, advisor: Dr. J.E.G. Peek)
  • 2012-2015 — National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellow (UW-Madison, advisor: Prof. S. Stanimirovic)
  • 2011 — Graduate Research Assistant (UW-Madison, advisor: Prof. S. Stanimirovic)
  • 2010 — NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates, NRAO (Socorro, NM, advisor: Dr. L. Sjouwerman)
  • 2009-2011 — Research Assistant (Carleton College, advisor: Prof. C. Blaha)

Awards

  • 2017 — Robert L. Brown Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award, National Radio Astronomy Observatory
  • 2016 — Bautz Fellowship, University of Wisconsin - Madison Astronomy
  • 2012-2015 — National Science Foundataion Graduate Research Fellowship
  • 2012, 2014, 2016 — Graduate Research Fellowship, Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium
  • 2015 — Jansky Award for Outstanding Research, University of Wisconsin - Madison Physics & Astronomy
  • 2015 — Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Student Award, American Astronomical Society
  • 2013 — Stebbins Award for Significant Research Achievement, University of Wisconsin - Madison Astronomy
  • 2011 — Distinction in Physics & Astronomy Major, Carleton College
  • 2010 — Mike Ewers Award, Carleton College and the Minnesota Space Grant Consortium

Publications