2023 NASA Hubble Fellowship Program Fellows
Host Institution: Harvard University
Proposal Title: Using Chemical Kinetics to Constrain the Timeline of Mars’ Redox Dichotomy
Danica Adams received her bachelor’s degree in planetary science from the University of California, Berkeley in 2018 with highest departmental honors. There, Danica conducted research with the MAVEN (Mars Atmospheric Volatile and Evolution) mission from 2016 to 2018, while also conducting research about exoplanet aerosols on campus. Danica will complete her PhD in Planetary Science spring 2023 at the California Institute of Technology under the mentorship of thesis advisor Professor Yuk Yung and research and academic advisor Professor Heather Knutson.
Danica primarily studies the evolution of Mars. Extensive geological and mineralogical evidence suggest that ancient Mars once had large volumes of surface liquid water, likely sustained by a thicker atmosphere with greenhouse gases such as H2 and CH4. This environment was potentially more habitable than the cold, barren Mars we observe today. Danica’s research uses a suite of numerical models, including KINETICS (a photochemical model) to study the intricate connection of Mars’ early atmospheric chemistry and climate. Danica’s ongoing research is the first in the literature to pose an explanation to long-lasting warm, wet climates at early Mars (timescales up to 107 years), and crustal hydration (geologic sinks of water) to sustain large H2 fluxes, which warm the climate via collision-induced absorption with CO2, despite a relatively short photochemical lifetime for the species (105 years). Her proposed research will investigate the evolution of Mars’ chemistry through time, aiming to explain the climates suitable to form the volatile deposits measured on the surface today (such as nitrates, perchlorates, and organics). During her graduate and undergraduate work, Danica has also studied exoplanet photochemistry and the influence of aerosols on observations. The habitability and evolution of other worlds is exciting and, in the future, comparative planetology between Mars and rocky exoplanets will improve our understanding of how other worlds have and will evolve over time. In her free time, Danica swims competitively, both in the pool and open water, and dances ballet.
Host Institution: Northwestern University Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA)
Proposal Title: From Black Holes to the Big Bang: Astrophysics and Cosmology with Gravitational Waves and Their Electromagnetic Counterparts
A native of Philadelphia, Sylvia Biscoveanu graduated from Pennsylvania State University with bachelor's degrees in physics and Spanish in 2017. Before beginning her graduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the guidance of Professor Salvatore Vitale, she spent a year conducting research on gravitational-wave astrophysics as a Fulbright Postgraduate Scholar at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. She will complete her PhD in May 2023.
Sylvia’s research focuses on using gravitational-wave data to understand the properties of compact-object mergers, their electromagnetic counterparts, and the stochastic gravitational-wave background. By analyzing the population of compact-object binaries and developing methods for folding in multi-messenger information, Sylvia’s work seeks to probe the signatures of the processes leading to the formation and evolution of these sources. The next couple of years will bring hundreds of new gravitational-wave detections as the sensitivity of the LIGO-Virgo-KAGRA detector network improves. As an Einstein Fellow, Sylvia will work on developing new data analysis techniques that will be critical to the astrophysical interpretation of the growing catalog of observations with the ultimate goal of laying the groundwork for the methods required to detect the gravitational-wave signature of the early universe.
Host Institution: Stanford University
Proposal Title: What in the Galaxy Is Scattering Cosmic Rays?
Iryna Butsky was born in Ukraine and grew up in San Jose, California. She earned her bachelor’s in astrophysics from Caltech in 2014, and spent the following year doing research at SLAC in Menlo Park. Iryna received her PhD in astronomy from the University of Washington, where she worked with Tom Quinn and Jess Werk to uncover how cosmic rays fundamentally alter the structure of the circumgalactic medium. In 2021, Iryna returned to Caltech as a DuBridge Postdoctoral Scholar, where she has continued her work on cosmic rays in collaboration with Phil Hopkins.
Iryna’s research uses simulations to determine how small-scale plasma processes shape galaxy evolution. As a graduate student, Iryna demonstrated that existing galaxy simulations with cosmic rays lack predictive power due to the extreme uncertainties in cosmic-ray transport models. As a Hubble Fellow, Iryna will build on her recent work by proposing novel theoretical models of cosmic-ray scattering on ~AU scales. Using a combination of analytic theory, simulations, and detailed comparisons to observations, Iryna is determined to uncover the dominant physical processes governing cosmic-ray transport on galactic scales. By placing unprecedented constraints on the physics of cosmic-ray transport, this research will enable novel insights into the role of cosmic rays in galaxy evolution.
Host Institution: Ohio State University
Proposal Title: Precision Cosmology from Lyman-alpha Forest Correlations in DESI Data
Andrei Cuceu grew up in Romania. He received his master’s in astrophysics from University College London (UCL) in 2018. He stayed at UCL for his PhD, working with Andreu Font-Ribera and Benjamin Joachimi. His PhD thesis was titled “Precision Cosmology from the Clustering of Large-Scale Structures.” In 2022, Andrei moved to the Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics (CCAPP) at Ohio State University as a Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics fellow. He is a member of the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) collaboration.
Andrei’s research focuses on using the Lyman-alpha forest as a tracer of large-scale structure to study cosmology. The Lyman-alpha forest consists of a series of absorption lines in spectra of distant galaxies, which can be used to map the distribution of neutral hydrogen in the universe. Andrei has worked on using Lyman-alpha forest data from the extended Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (eBOSS) to constrain the properties of dark energy and to measure the Hubble constant. The Lyman-alpha forest is unique because it probes regions of the universe further away than what is currently possible with galaxy surveys, allowing us to study the universe at a time when it still had very little dark energy and was matter dominated.
As an Einstein Fellow, Andrei will work on performing new state-of-the-art measurements of the expansion history of the universe using Lyman-alpha forest data from DESI. He will also work on extracting more cosmological information from the Lyman-alpha forest by measuring the growth rate of cosmic structure.
Host Institution: Harvard University
Proposal Title: White Dwarfs in 3D: Lenses into Distant Worlds
Tim Cunningham grew up in the county of Shropshire, United Kingdom, and obtained his master's degree in physics from King’s College London. He received his PhD in physics from the University of Warwick in 2020, where he currently works as a postdoctoral research fellow in the astronomy and astrophysics group.
Tim's research focuses on white dwarf stars, specifically how material is transported in their atmosphere, and how they evolve and interact with their local environments. Most stars become white dwarfs and when they do, remnants of their planetary system may be accreted onto the white dwarfs. This provides a unique opportunity to study the bulk composition of exoplanetary material, but doing so requires accurate models of white dwarfs’ atmospheres.
As a Hubble Fellow, Tim will use his expertise in 3D radiation hydrodynamic simulations to study the physics of convection in white dwarf atmospheres. The aim is to reveal the extent of convective overshoot in white dwarfs of all cooling ages, addressing a major uncertainty in stellar evolution theory. As a constraint on these atmospheric models, Tim will leverage X-ray observations with the Chandra X-ray Observatory to probe the accretion of planetary debris onto white dwarfs.
Host Institution: Wayne State University
Proposal Title: Hunting for Accreting Black Holes in Young Massive Clusters
Kristen Dage received her bachelor’s in physics from the University of Michigan–Dearborn in 2014, and her PhD in astronomy and astrophysics from Michigan State University in 2020, working with Steve Zepf on ultraluminous X-ray sources in extragalactic globular clusters. After finishing her PhD, she took up an independent fellowship at McGill University in Montréal, Québec, Canada.
Kristen’s research utilises X-ray and optical observations to study rare X-ray binaries with extreme accretion physics, as well as the star clusters that host them. These studies reveal the observational evidence for the extent and nature of black holes in extragalactic globular clusters. As an Einstein Fellow, Kristen will extend her work into more nearby young star clusters to probe their black hole contents using X-ray, optical, and radio observations. This study will enable a catalogue of putative intermediate mass black holes in young star clusters for the first time, and detail how compact objects evolve in dense stellar environments.
Host Institution: New York University
Proposal Title: Towards a Comprehensive 3D View of Dust in the Galactic Neighbourhood
Thavisha Dharmawardena has her roots in Colombo, Sri Lanka. She achieved her master’s degree in 2014 from the University College London, working with Professor Micheal Barlow. She moved to Taiwan in 2015 to achieve her PhD, and was mentored by Professor Francisca Kemper at Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics and Professor Chung-Ming Ko at the National Central University. During her PhD, Thavisha worked on understanding the properties of cold dust emission from evolved stars. In 2019, she moved to Heidelberg, Germany, to carry out her postdoctoral research at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in the Gaia group, where she worked with Dr. Coryn Bailer-Jones. She recently joined the Flatiron Institute’s Center for Computational Astrophysics in New York as a Flatiron Research Fellow.
She is currently focused on understanding the Milky Way's three-dimensional structure by examining its dust distribution using state-of-the-art machine learning techniques. Interstellar dust obscures our view of the universe by scattering, absorbing, and re-emitting light. It is crucial to our understanding of key astrophysical processes. Meanwhile, its distribution traces galactic structure, making three-dimensional dust distribution vital to our understanding of the Milky Way. As a Hubble Fellow, Thavisha will extend her 3D mapping efforts to explore the dust density and grain size distributions of the Milky Way at parsec resolutions, using large surveys such as Gaia and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). She will explore how dust is processed in the interstellar medium and provide a comprehensive view of the interlink between dust, gas, and stars. Extending on this, she will exploit prior knowledge to simultaneously refine distances and map dust. She will extend her work to develop 3D dust maps of the Small Magellanic Cloud, a local low-metallicity counterpart to high-redshift galaxies. Understanding low-metallicity dust is relevant both to understanding the underlying stellar populations in high-redshift galaxies and successfully modeling star-formation in the early universe.
Host Institution: University of Colorado Boulder
Proposal Title: The Evolution of Young Exoplanet Atmospheres in the Presence of Extreme Stellar Activity
Adina Feinstein grew up in Syosset, New York. She received her bachelor’s degree in 2018 from Tufts University, where she majored in astrophysics with a minor in English. She earned her master’s in physical sciences from the University of Chicago in 2019. Adina is currently a graduate student at the University of Chicago in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics under the supervision of Professor Jacob Bean. As a graduate student, Adina was supported by a National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program and and defended her PhD in March 2023.
Broadly interested in stars and planets younger than 500 million years, Adina has used space-based observatories like the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as ground-based facilities to answer questions about how young stellar environments, and in particular stellar flares, shape the early stages of planetary atmospheric evolution. As a Sagan Fellow at the University of Colorado Boulder, Adina will continue to use a number of observatories to probe the early stages of exoplanet and stellar evolution. She plans to use a wide range of wavelengths from the ultraviolet to the infrared to measure the rates and energies of stellar flares on young stars and the compositions of young planetary atmospheres.
Host Institution: University of Colorado Boulder
Proposal Title: Fantastic Flares and Where to Find Them: Constraining Exoplanet Atmospheres with Multi-wavelength Flare Campaigns
Ward Howard grew up in High Point, North Carolina, where he first encountered astronomy through the Cline Observatory. Ward received his bachelor’s in physics and mathematics from Union University in 2015. He completed his PhD in physics and astronomy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2021, advised by Professor Nicholas Law. Ward has since worked with Professor Meredith MacGregor as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Ward investigates the effects of stellar flares on the habitability of planets orbiting low-mass stars using a suite of observatories from X-ray to millimeter wavelengths. Flares occur when unstable and shifting magnetic fields accelerate charged particles deep into the stellar atmosphere where they heat the plasma. The resulting emission spans the electromagnetic spectrum and drives disequilibrium chemistry in planetary atmospheres. For his thesis, Ward measured the occurrence of the largest M-dwarf flares across the sky with the Evryscope array of small telescopes. In his current position, he explores how millimeter flares from Proxima Centauri correlate with X-ray, ultraviolet, and optical emission.
As a Sagan Fellow at the University of Colorado Boulder, Ward will carry out the first population-level survey of multiple M-dwarf flare stars with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), alongside simultaneous observations from the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), and Evryscope. He will model the effects of the multi-wavelength emission on rocky exoplanet atmospheres and compare the results against transit spectroscopy observations from the James Webb Space Telescope to help constrain the conditions for life on these worlds.
Host Institution: University of Florida
Proposal Title: Mining the Kinematics of Discs to Hunt Planets in Formation
Andrés grew up in Palmira, Colombia, and at 16 he moved to the city of Medellin to pursue a scientific career. In 2018, he obtained a bachelor’s in astronomy from the University of Antioquia and began his graduate studies at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, where he received his master’s degree in 2019. He is due to complete his PhD in fall 2023, for which he has worked jointly at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Germany and at Leiden University in the Netherlands under the supervision of Professor Leonardo Testi and Professor Ewine van Dishoeck.
Andrés is a computational astrophysicist who bridges observations and theory in the field of star and planet formation by developing novel modelling and data analysis techniques. His current research seeks to understand the kinematic signatures driven by unseen planets embedded in their birthplaces – protoplanetary discs – to conduct searches for these elusive objects using high-resolution molecular line observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). As a Sagan Fellow, Andrés will work to improve and systematize the identification of key observables resulting from both planet-disc interaction and the influence of non-planetary mechanisms on the disc structure and dynamics. He will use numerical hydro-simulations, machine learning algorithms, and his Discminer modelling code to categorize these observables and devise a framework applicable to molecular line data to hunt for nascent planets in an unambiguous and statistically robust manner.
Host Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Proposal Title: New Bayesian Tools for a Systematics-Robust 21-cm Signal Detection at Cosmic Dawn
Nicholas Kern received his bachelor’s in physics and astrophysics from the University of Michigan in 2015. He moved to California, completing his PhD in astrophysics at the University of California, Berkeley in 2020. Nicholas currently works as a Pappalardo Fellow in the physics department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Nicholas is a data-focused cosmologist, working at the interface of experiment and theory. His expertise lies in low-frequency radio cosmology experiments, which aim to produce the largest three-dimensional maps of the universe ever made. Nicholas develops novel techniques for extracting faint cosmological signals from these noisy and contaminated datasets, and for connecting these measurements to astrophysical theory. His current work is focused on making a first detection of ancient radio signals emanating from Cosmic Dawn, the era marking the formation of the very first stars and galaxies in the universe. These radio measurements allow us to study the gas surrounding the first stars, revealing the interplay between these objects and their large-scale environments for the first time. However, these observations require unprecedented levels of radio systematics mitigation.
As a Hubble Fellow at MIT, Nicholas will lead a new research program focused on solving the systematics problem for these promising radio telescopes. He will leverage recent advances in machine learning software and hardware to accelerate the joint modeling of systematics and cosmological signals, enabling a robust detection of Cosmic Dawn radio signals for the first time. Longer term, he will apply these frameworks to a wide range of current and near-future telescopes that will help to usher in a new era of low-frequency radio cosmology.
Host Institution: Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
Proposal Title: Leveraging the Line of Sight to Understand the Physics of Accretion Disk Winds
Peter Kosec grew up in Trenčín, Slovakia, where he finished his secondary education and began studying astronomy under the supervision of Dr. Zdenka Baxová. For his undergraduate degree he studied natural sciences at Trinity College of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. He continued with a PhD in Astronomy at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Professor Andrew Fabian, Dr. Ciro Pinto, and Professor Christopher Reynolds. After finishing his PhD, Peter joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as a postdoctoral associate, working with Professor Erin Kara and with the Chandra X-ray Observatory’s High-Energy Transmission Grating research group.
Peter studies accretion disk winds in a broad range of accreting systems using X-ray observations, focusing specifically on high-resolution X-ray spectroscopy. Disk winds can greatly affect the environments surrounding accreting black holes or neutron stars. In supermassive black holes, such outflows may even be powerful enough to dictate the evolution of the entire host galaxy. In his previous work, Peter analyzed these phenomena and the physics of super-Eddington accretion in ultraluminous X-ray sources and active galactic nuclei. His current research focuses on X-ray binaries and tidal disruption events. As an Einstein Fellow at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Peter will study the three-dimensional properties of disk winds by leveraging different lines of sight throughout the accretion flow of their hosts. He will obtain a range of sightlines by systematically studying samples of systems at different orientations, as well as by focusing on the rare X-ray binaries known to have precessing, warped accretion disks. Peter will use data from the next-generation high-resolution X-ray spectrometer onboard the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) observatory, expected to launch in 2023.
Host Institution: University of Virginia
Proposal Title: Revealing the Chemistry of Typical Planet-Forming Disks
Charles Law grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and received his undergraduate degree in physics and astronomy from Harvard University in 2017. He stayed at Harvard for his graduate studies and will complete his PhD in spring 2023 under the supervision of Professor Karin Öberg and Dr. Qizhou Zhang.
Charles’s research focuses on using the high spatial resolution of (sub-)millimeter interferometers such as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to characterize the chemical environments in which young stars and planets are forming. In particular, he is interested in using molecular line emission to probe the physical and chemical conditions of protoplanetary disks. As a Sagan Fellow at the University of Virginia, Charles will undertake a comprehensive chemical exploration of radially-compact disks, which represent the majority of disks and the most common sites of planet formation in our Milky Way galaxy. He will use new ALMA observations and detailed thermochemical modeling to uncover the chemical settings in which most planets assemble. He aims to ultimately link disk conditions with observed exoplanet populations.
Host Institution: University of California, Berkeley
Proposal Title: Instrumentation and FRB Cosmology with CHIME Outriggers
Calvin Leung was born and raised in Fremont, California, and received his bachelor’s degrees in physics and mathematics from Harvey Mudd College. After a year at the Institute of Quantum Optics and Quantum Information in Vienna, Austria, where he worked on the “cosmic Bell test,” he joined Kiyo Masui’s group in 2018 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to study fast radio bursts (FRBs), mysterious millisecond-duration radio transients from cosmological distances. He is a leader in the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME)/FRB Outriggers project, which is an ambitious campaign to build three outrigger telescopes that will observe in tandem with the commensal FRB backend of CHIME/FRB to pinpoint thousands of FRBs to within their host galaxies using very long baseline interferometry (VLBI).
He will finish his PhD in 2023, having led the development of software instrumentation, a VLBI correlator, and analysis pipelines for CHIME/FRB outriggers, as well as having developed novel data analysis techniques to search for and analyze gravitationally lensed FRBs as probes of extragalactic dark matter. As an Einstein Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, he will return to his Bay Area stomping grounds to address two of the broadest questions in FRB science: What are their origins? How can FRBs best be used as probes of baryons and cosmology? By commissioning the third and final CHIME/FRB outrigger station at the SETI Institute in Hat Creek, California, he hopes to advance FRB science into a new era of plentiful and precise localizations, which will open up a wealth of new opportunities in high-energy astrophysics and cosmology.
Host Institution: University of Colorado Boulder
Proposal Title: Unraveling the Mysteries Behind Spectral State Transitions
Matthew Liska grew up in Amsterdam and completed his PhD at the University of Amsterdam in September 2019. He subsequently moved to Harvard as a John Harvard and Institute for Theory and Computation Fellow, where he stayed for four years.
Matthew develops general relativistic magnetohydrodynamics (GRMHD) simulations of black hole accretion disks and outflows. He is known in the field for performing the first (radiative) GRMHD simulations of accretion disks that are extremely thin and misaligned with the black hole spin axis. This has led to a vastly improved understanding of black hole accretion near the Eddington limit. Matthew has pioneered the usage of GPUs and adaptive meshes in (radiative) GRMHD simulations with his GRMHD code H-AMR.
As an Einstein fellow, Matthew will develop numerical models to better understand why accreting black holes transition through various spectral states. These spectral state transitions are ubiquitous, but lack a self-consistent theoretical explanation. To test his numerical models against observations, Matthew will develop a Monte-Carlo radiative transfer and test particle scheme to model non-thermal radiation.
Host Institution: Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
Proposal Title: Non-Equilibrium Galaxy Evolution Driven by the Circumgalactic Medium
Cassi Lochhaas grew up in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and obtained her bachelor’s in physics from the California Institute of Technology in 2013. She completed her PhD in astronomy in 2019 at Ohio State University under the supervision of Professor Todd Thompson, where she developed and explored analytic models for galactic winds and their impact on the circumgalactic medium. She then moved to the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, as a postdoctoral researcher, joining the Figuring Out Gas & Galaxies In Enzo (FOGGIE) galaxy simulation team and collaborating closely with Molly Peeples and Jason Tumlinson.
Cassi is a computational galaxy evolution theorist who uses large-scale galaxy simulations as a tool to develop new analytic models describing how galaxies evolve, and detail the impact of a galaxy's circumgalactic medium (CGM) on its evolution. Using the extremely high-resolution FOGGIE simulations, she has discovered that the gas dynamics in the CGM, particularly turbulence, drastically affect the overall energy and force balance of the entire galactic system and drive the CGM away from commonly-assumed temperature and pressure relations. As a Hubble Fellow at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cassi will develop new high-resolution galaxy simulations to explore how CGM turbulence is driven by galactic winds and how accreting gas travels through the turbulent CGM to reach the galaxy. By analyzing both outflows and inflows, and comparing them to CGM observations, she will develop a model describing how the physics of the CGM determines the properties of galaxies along observational scaling relations.
Host Institution: Princeton University
Proposal Title: Ushering in a New Era of the EHT with Machine Learning
Lia Medeiros is originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and grew up living in cities both within and outside Brazil. She obtained her bachelor’s in physics and astrophysics from the University of California, Berkeley in 2013. She received her masters and PhD from the University of California, Santa Barbara. A National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program allowed her to create opportunities to spend a significant part of her PhD at the Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona, and the Black Hole Initiative at Harvard University. After defending her PhD in 2019, she took a National Science Foundation’s Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellowship to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.
Lia’s research focuses on developing and analyzing simulations of accreting supermassive black holes. She compares her simulations to data from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) to constrain accretion physics as well as potential deviations from the predictions of general relativity. She has been a key member of the EHT for several years, including co-founding the Gravitational Physics working group and co-leading the first collaboration paper on tests of gravity. She also recently developed principal component interferometric modeling (PRIMO), a novel machine-learning based algorithm that uses a large library of high-fidelity simulations as a training set. As an Einstein Fellow at Princeton University, she will apply PRIMO to EHT data and generate images of both M87 and Sgr A* with improved resolution. She will use these images to constrain the black hole mass, accretion model parameters, and the space-time geometry of black holes. She will also significantly expand the algorithm to create a “movie” of a black hole from time-variable data and reconstruct high-resolution polarized images.
Host Institution: University of Utah
Proposal Title: Reconstructing the Assembly History of Andromeda
Ekta Patel was born and raised in Northeastern and Central New Jersey. She received her bachelor's in physics from New York University in 2014. Ekta completed a PhD in astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Arizona in 2019 under the mentorship of Professor Gurtina Besla. From August 2019 to 2022, she was a Miller Fellow at the Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science at the University of California, Berkeley. Since August 2022, she has been a postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley.
Tracking the three-dimensional motions of stars in nearby galaxies is a recent astronomical breakthrough that has substantially increased our knowledge of how galaxies grow, evolve, and interact with each other over cosmic time. Ekta’s research uses dynamical modeling, computational simulations, and related three-dimensional data to trace the orbital histories of galaxies in the Local Group to their cosmic origins. This information can be leveraged to understand how galaxies like the Milky Way have assembled their mass via mergers. As Andromeda is the only galaxy that is observable at the same level of detail as the Milky Way, it provides a unique opportunity to study the detailed processes involved in hierarchical galaxy evolution from an external vantage point. As a Hubble Fellow, Ekta will develop a comprehensive dynamical model of the assembly of Andromeda’s system of satellite galaxies and its current dark matter distribution. This work helps place the Local Group and its galaxies in cosmological context. It will also provide the necessary theoretical foundation for forthcoming data of dozens of Milky Way and Andromeda-mass galactic ecosystems that will be observed by the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, and the James Webb Space Telescope.
Host Institution: Space Telescope Science Institute
Proposal Title: Leveraging the Hubble Space Telescope for a New Era of Precision Near-IR Type Ia Supernova Cosmology
Justin Pierel grew up in rural Maine, where remote dark skies inspired his love of astronomy. After graduating from Bowdoin College with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, Justin spent two years at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center as part of the NASA DEVELOP and Applied Remote Sensing Training programs, and then as a member of the Cassini Composite Infrared Spectrometer team studying the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn. Justin received his master’s and PhD from the University of South Carolina with advisor Dr. Steve Rodney, where he was awarded a South Carolina Space Grant Consortium (SCSGC) Fellowship and Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST) Fellowship while studying Type Ia supernova cosmology in the infrared and cosmological constraints with gravitationally lensed supernovae. He then joined the Transient Science at Space Telescope group as a postdoctoral fellow where he led the analysis of some of the first transients observed with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Justin is the principal investigator of LensWatch, a collaboration of over 60 researchers from 10 countries triggering Hubble Space Telescope observations of new gravitationally lensed supernovae.
As an Einstein Fellow at the Space Telescope Science Institute, Justin will continue pushing the frontier of infrared supernova cosmology by measuring properties of dark energy for the first time exclusively with precision infrared Hubble observations. These results will be propagated to the survey characteristics of the upcoming Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, which is tasked with revolutionizing our understanding of dark energy. Justin will also harness high-redshift supernovae discovered with JWST to expand our understanding of the distant universe, and continue his efforts with LensWatch to observe new gravitationally lensed supernovae with Hubble.
Host Institution: California Institute of Technology
Proposal Title: Using Exoplanet Tails to Measure Stellar- and Planetary-Mass Loss Rates
Jessica Spake is a first-generation college student from Southampton in the United Kingdom. She went to Imperial College London for her undergraduate degree, which included a year in France. While there, she had one lecture on exoplanet detection methods and decided to spend the rest of her life studying exoplanets on the spot. She completed a masters degree at the University of Warwick, where she detected new exoplanets with the SuperWASP Survey. She then moved to Exeter for a PhD with David Sing on the characterisation of exoplanet atmospheres.
During her PhD, she made the first detection of helium in an escaping exoplanet atmosphere. This marked a new way to observe elusive mass-loss processes in action. She is currently a 51 Pegasi b Fellow at Caltech, where she uses the Hubble Space Telescope, the W.M. Keck Observatory, and the James Webb Space Telescope to observe the evolution of exoplanet atmospheres.
As a Sagan Fellow, she will develop further methods to observe and model escaping exoplanet atmospheres and their post-transit tails to measure the effects of stellar winds and the thermal evolution of planetary interiors. The eventual goal of her research is to predict which exoplanets, around which stars, can maintain habitable atmospheres for billions of years.
Katherine (Wren) Suess
Host Institution: Stanford University
Proposal Title: Revealing and Resolving Quenching with the James Webb Space Telescope
Wren Suess grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, and received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She completed her PhD at the University of California, Berkeley under the mentorship of Professor Mariska Kriek. Since graduating in 2021, Wren has been a joint Stanford – Santa Cruz Cosmology Fellow as well as a UC Santa Cruz Chancellor’s Fellow.
Wren is an observational astrophysicist who uses data from across the electromagnetic spectrum to study the formation and evolution of galaxies. Her thesis focused on developing accurate tools to measure both the growth and death of massive galaxies. She is part of the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) instrument team for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), and has played a key role in early JWST discoveries that challenge our accepted views of the earliest phases of galaxy assembly. As a Hubble Fellow at Stanford, Wren is leading the development of a next-generation Bayesian modeling framework to perform the first systematic studies of how stellar populations vary spatially within distant galaxies. By pairing these advanced methods with revolutionary new JWST data, Wren will pin down the physical mechanisms responsible for the mysterious “quenching” process that makes massive galaxies stop forming new stars. Over the coming years, she is excited to leverage the joint power of JWST, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), and upcoming observatories like the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope to answer our biggest outstanding questions about galaxy formation.
Host Institution: Princeton University
Proposal Title: Star Clusters, Molecular Clouds, and Galaxies – Linking Physics from Parsec to Megaparsec Scales
Jiayi Sun grew up in Beijing, China. He received his bachelor’s in physics from Tsinghua University in 2015, after which he spent a year at the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University. He then moved to North America to pursue his PhD in astronomy, working with Professor Adam Leroy at Ohio State University. Jiayi is currently a Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics National Fellow at McMaster University in Canada.
Jiayi's research focuses on understanding the physical processes that shape the interstellar medium (ISM), control star formation and clustering, and drive galaxy evolution. As an observer, Jiayi uses multiwavelength data to address questions like, “How do molecular clouds interact with their host galaxies?”, “How efficient are these clouds at forming stars and clusters?” and “How does the ISM reflect and regulate galaxy quenching?” He is an active user of long-wavelength facilities, including the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and James Webb Space Telescope, and is leading major observational efforts in the PHANGS and VERTICO collaborations. As a Hubble Fellow at Princeton, Jiayi will strive to put massive star cluster formation in the context of natal clouds and host galaxies, and dissect galaxy quenching mechanisms through the lens of cloud-scale ISM physics. Jiayi’s research will connect the latest observations to state-of-the-art numerical simulations and contribute to a holistic view of star cluster formation, ISM physics, and galaxy evolution from parsec to megaparsec scales.
Margaret (Maggie) Thompson
Host Institution: Carnegie Institution for Science’s Earth and Planets Laboratory
Proposal Title: To Explore Strange New Worlds: Connecting the Interiors and Atmospheres of Rocky Exoplanets
Maggie Thompson was born and raised in northern Virginia. She received her bachelor’s in astrophysical sciences from Princeton University in 2016. Prior to graduate school, she spent several summers working at Caltech/IPAC on brown dwarf observations and a year working as a research trainee at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Earth and Planets Laboratory. She then moved to California to pursue a PhD in astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She earned a master’s in 2019 and completed her PhD in March 2023 under the mentorship of Professor Myriam Telus and Professor Jonathan Fortney.
Maggie’s research focuses on understanding the formation and evolution of rocky exoplanets and their atmospheres using a combination of laboratory experiments and theoretical modeling tools. Her PhD thesis addressed two themes related to rocky exoplanet atmospheres: Their primordial outgassing compositions using cosmochemistry experiments and the planetary context for observable biosignatures using modeling tools. Hot, rocky exoplanets (i.e., magma planets) will be some of the most characterizable rocky worlds of the coming decades. As a Sagan Fellow at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Earth and Planets Laboratory, Maggie will use novel laboratory instruments to understand the chemical diversity of magma exoplanets and the connection between their interiors and atmospheres. She will incorporate these experimental findings into a coupled interior-atmosphere climate model to answer important questions about these hot, rocky worlds.
Host Institution: Duke University
Proposal Title: SN Cosmology with the Next Generation of Time-Domain Experiments
Maria Vincenzi received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics from the University of Milan in Italy. She completed her PhD at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom. Under the guidance of Professor Bob Nichol and Professor Mark Sullivan, she conducted her research on supernova (SN) Ia cosmology using samples of photometrically identified SNe Ia. Her doctoral thesis investigated how contamination from core-collapse SNe could bias cosmological parameter estimation of SNe Ia and how advanced machine-learning classification algorithms can be used to reduce these biases.
After completing her PhD, Maria joined Duke University as a postdoctoral researcher, working with Professor Dan Scolnic. Currently, she leads the cosmological analysis of the SN Ia sample from the Dark Energy Survey. She is actively involved in three major upcoming cosmological surveys: the Legacy Survey of Space and Time on the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, and the near-infrared space-based surveys on the Euclid Space Telescope and the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope. In their first months of observations, these surveys will observe more SNe than in the past two decades, promising groundbreaking discoveries for time-domain science and cosmology. As an Einstein Fellow, Maria is preparing for these experiments and establishing cross-collaborations that will enhance the scientific outcomes of these projects.