I am an Assistant Professor of Astronomy in the department of Physics and Astronomy at Amherst College. I study active galactic nuclei (accreting supermassive black holes) and their host galaxies, the Galactic center and Sgr A*, and accretion-driven outﬂows using multi-wavelength and time domain surveys.
JOB OPENING: I'm searching for an excellent postdoc to work with me at Amherst College. More information about the job and instructions on how to apply are availble here.
At present, my research is focused on events unfolding at the heart of our Milky Way Galaxy, where an unusual objected called "G2" (is it a gas cloud or a star?) appears to be colliding with our local supermassive black hole, Sgr A*. A Physics Central podcast, Hungry Hungry Black Holes (May 14, 2014), featuring Andrea Ghez, Stefan Gillessen, and I, gives a great summary of the excitment surrounding this encounter. My X-ray and radio studies of Sgr A*/G2 are supported by the award of two Chandra Large Observing Programs in Cycle 14 (300 ks, joint with 42 hours on JVLA plus 30 ks from XMM Newton) and Cycle 15 (420 ks, joint with 36 hours on JVLA), and a Cycle 9 Swift program. Here's some more good G2 reading: Watching for a Black Hole to Gobble Up a Gas Cloud (Northwestern), Cloud Bound for Milky Way’s Black Hole Puzzles Astronomers (Scientific American), The Giant Awakes (New Scientist). There are more details on my Research page.
I am an Elected Member of the AAS High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD) Executive Committee, and an Editor for the AASWOMEN Newsletter. Wearing these hats, I have participated in two visits to Capitol Hill to advocate for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and STEM education. During the summer months in 2012 and 2013, I helped organize several fantastic Stargazing and Sky Stories events with the Aspen Science Center and the Aspen Center for Physics (which led to my first TV interview (!) on Aspen's GrassRoots Community TV).
I have worked with a great group of student researchers, including Kenza Arraki, an NSF Graduate Research Fellow at NMSU, several NASA Space Grant summer students, and two exceptional high schoolers from Evanston Township High School (both headed to MIT this fall 2014, rock on Talia and Taylor!).
Before coming to Amherst, I worked with Northwestern University's NSF GK-12 program, Reach for the Stars, which brings computational thinking to middle and high school classrooms in Evanston and Chicago. As a graduate student, I was instrumental in establishing the Pre-Major in Astronomy Program (Pre-MAP) at the University of Washington. Learn more about these programs on my Teaching page.
Here is my CV.