Dr. Katherine Alatalo

I am a staff Astronomer working for the NIRISS team at the Space Telescope Science Institute. Scientifically, you can find me working on the question of what makes galaxies die. Searching for ways to determine the initial conditions that lead a blue spiral's star formation to quench. I am the P.I. of the Shocked Poststarburst Galaxy Survey.

From 2015-2017, I was a Hubble fellow sponsored by John Mulchaey at the Carnegie Observatories (where you can find me "visiting" until March 2018). From 2012-2015, I worked as a postdoctoral scholar with Dr. Philip Appleton at IPAC/Caltech, studying the effects that shocks have on galaxies within Hickson Compact Groups. Before that, I graduated in 2012 with a Ph.D. in astrophysics from UC - Berkeley with Prof. Carl Heiles as my advisor. Prior to that, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a double major of astronomy and physics under the supervision of Prof. Carl Akerlof and Prof. Tim McKay.

Research interests

My current interests mostly focus on using CARMA and ALMA to map cold molecular gas in candidates from AGN feedback.  I am also the Principal Investigator of the Shocked Poststarburst Galaxy Survey, and thus spend much of my time thinking about how galaxies transform from blue spirals to red early-types, and specifically how the interstellar medium of the transitioning galaxy interplays with the star formation quenching itself.

Previously, I worked on understanding shocked galaxies within Hickson Compact groups, both with CARMA and Herschel, investigating star formation suppression within this set of special galaxies. For my thesis, I mapped the molecular gas in early-type galaxies using CARMA as a member of the the ATLAS3D team.  As an undergraduate, I worked on optical follow-up to gamma-ray bursts, primarily with ROTSE.

Other interests

In a quest for "epic" adventures, I have skydived in Hawaii, roadtripped in a Fiat Panda through the north shore of Tenerife (Canary Islands), picked up hitchhikers in Yellowstone National Park, chased down Calfire fighters to make sure I didn't need to evacuate our science facility, rode horses along the spine of Patagonia and had many more adventures. I scare easily, and love pushing myself through that fear. I am a competitive fun-haver, meaning that when people come visit me here, I will do everything in my power to ensure they have had a better time than they can possibly show me in their hometown. It is (in my opinion) a competition that everyone wins.