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Giacomo Terreran
Summer 2018

Why did you choose CIERA for your post doctorate work?
When I finished my PhD in Europe I wanted to try an experience in the States. I applied to several universities, and I got offered jobs by two, in addition to CIERA. I accepted the offer from CIERA because it looked like a young and growing institute to me. I had the feeling that by joining, I could actually contribute to the growth, and not just end up in an already acclaimed institute where the path was already basically marked.

What have you enjoyed about working in CIERA in your time here so far?
I really like the overall atmosphere and the spirit of enterprise which you can sense every morning when you get to CIERA. The are a lot of initiatives and seminars, bringing several top-level scientists to Evanston every week, giving you the opportunity to widen your current knowledge about astronomical topics which you donít usually deal with, and trigger the curiosity for cosmological phenomena which you might have never heard of.

Why did you choose supernovae and gamma ray bursts as your focus?
I was working on supernovae as a PhD student in Europe, and it seemed as the most logical continuation. I started studying supernovae when I started my PhD and I remember saying, during the interview, ďSupernovae are basically extreme explosions in SpaceÖ who wouldnít want to study them?!Ē The feeling hasnít changed since.

What is the most exciting project you have worked on so far?
During my PhD I studied an object which we believed to be a ďpair-instability supernova.Ē These objects belong to a very exotic species of supernovae, which have been long theorized (we believe they must exist), but we have never unequivocally observed them before. I was really excited at the time because I think we found the FIRST TRULY BELIEVABLE candidate. However, although no ďnormalĒ known type of supernovae could have explained the behavior of this object, unfortunately we could not provide a 100% satisfactory proof of it to be a pair-instability supernova. The hunt continues.

What else are you hoping to do at CIERA or more into the future?
I think CIERA will give me the opportunity to bring my research to a higher level, expanding my expertise on supernovae towards other regimes which I could not explore during my graduate studies. Moreover, the vibrant gravitational wave group here in CIERA will bring me in close touch with the new hot topic of modern astronomy, and I will part of the pioneers of multi-messenger astronomy.

What do you like to do when not working in CIERA?
Iím a really sociable person, and I love to hang around with my friends. Chicago is an exciting big city and you never run out of things to do. I also like movies a lot, and when I get back home after a long day, I like to relax on the sofa watching films, both old classics, as well as new blockbusters.

Ben Nelson
Spring 2018

Data science can be defined as an amalgamation of programming skills, statistical knowledge, and expertise in some subdomain. This definition is so broad, it begs the question, ďWhat fields can data science be applied to?Ē The beauty of this interdisciplinary field is that data science is so versatile it can be applied anywhere, from social media to astrophysics.

Ben Nelson is the Data Science Scholar here at CIERA. Ben uses Bayesian statistics to analyze exoplanet orbits and determine their origins, as well as predict their long term orbital evolution. Ben also uses statistical methods to determine how many planet populations can be inferred by the data provided. In simpler terms, Ben looks at observational data of planetary orbits that occur outside our solar system, and uses statistical analysis to infer their formation histories and predict future orbits.

Ben is not the only Data Science Scholar at Northwestern; there are other scholars interspersed throughout many departments as a result of the Northwestern Data Science Initiative. The Data Science Initiative is a program to educate students, and the public alike, about the possibilities that lie within data science. It has created a network of data scientists across disciplines, representing fields from business to medicine to earth and planetary sciences. NICO, the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems, hosts monthly Data Science Nights, which are open to the public. The evenings consist of one hour of structured programming, followed by data science projects or learning groups, similar to a hackathon. ( These events are for people with all programming backgrounds, and a lot can be learned from just attending once! The Data Science Initiative also organizes talks, and in the future would like to increase its interdisciplinary collaborations, as data scientists are constantly learning from one another.

Sarah Wellons
Winter 2018

Why did you choose CIERA for your post doctorate work?
CIERA struck me as a research community which is simultaneously really vibrant and ambitious, but also supportive and friendly. There are a lot of great researchers here to interact with. Of particular interest to me was Claude-Andrť Faucher-GiguŤre's group, who work with really detailed, high-resolution galaxy formation simulations as part of a larger collaboration known as FIRE.

What have you enjoyed about working in CIERA in your time here so far?
It was amazing to be near the center of the action during the first binary neutron star merger event observed with both gravitational waves and light! Even though that's not my field whatsoever, I was really excited to watch it happen. I have also enjoyed getting to know all the other members of the CIERA, from the grad students and postdocs to the faculty and (amazing) administrators. CIERA is small enough that you can get to know everyone and feel a sense of community, but big enough that there's always something going on.

Why did you choose galaxy formation and evolution as your focus?
Galaxies are this really interesting middle ground between small-scale physics (e.g. stars) and large-scale physics (e.g. cosmology), and they have a foot in each world. Their properties emerge from local processes like gas condensing into stars and those stars exploding as supernovae, yet they change on such long timescales that by watching the evolution of galaxies over cosmic time, we can learn about the evolution of the Universe as a whole. Of course, I didn't quite understand this when I started my first galaxy research project - I just wanted to do some cool computer simulations!

What is the most exciting project you have worked on so far?
When observers looked deep into the Universe's history, they found a really extreme type of galaxy which had ~10x as many stars as the Milky Way, formed them ~4x faster, and packed them into ~1/10th the volume! These presented quite the challenge to explain from a theoretical standpoint. I had the opportunity to study these massive compact galaxies using a state-of-the-art large-volume cosmological simulation of galaxy formation (Illustris). Within this simulation, I was able to identify analogs to the galaxies that had been observed and show what physical mechanisms drove them to have such extreme properties, as well as indicate where the descendants of these monsters might be hiding in the local Universe.

What else are you hoping to do at CIERA or more into the future?
The more we learn observationally about galaxies in the high-redshift (early) Universe, the weirder it gets. There are a lot of puzzles left to solve in this regime. One major outstanding puzzle, for example, is how and why massive galaxies quench (stop forming stars). We have a lot of clues that super-massive black holes are at least partially responsible, but we don't understand exactly how! I look forward to studying this problem (and many others) from a theoretical standpoint with more high-resolution simulations of galaxy formation.

What do you like to do when not working in CIERA?
I have been enjoying exploring the city of Chicago, although it's starting to get a bit chilly! To warm up, I might go out dancing (I especially enjoy swing). Or if it gets too cold to go outside, I'll noodle around on the piano or do some baking.

Pablo Marchant
Fall 2017

Why did you choose CIERA for your post doctorate work?
I visited CIERA a couple of years before starting my position, and I really liked the place. At the time I was very interested in the work that was being made towards the detection of gravitational waves here, and the detection on September 14th of 2015 further increased my interest in this institution.

Having done my PhD in Europe, I also considered it important to extend my network towards the other side of the Atlantic, so I focused on finding a position in the US.

What have you enjoyed about working in CIERA in your time here so far?
In most places I've worked different research groups have been very independent, with not much interaction going on between them. The situation here is quite the opposite, with most people participating in seminars and other activities regardless of whether these are directly related to their specific research area. This provides very lively and varied discussions, and I feel I learn something new and outside my area of comfort on a weekly basis. Also, the staff has been extremely helpful, allowing me to more directly focus on my research, as well as providing plenty of help in the process of moving to the US.

Why did you choose stellar evolution and binary stellar modeling as your focus?
I've always found stars to be extremely interesting objects. Understanding these objects and their compact remnants essentially requires a broad understanding of physics, ranging from quantum mechanical processes that control their energy generation to the extremely strong gravity in neutron stars and black holes which makes the use of Einstein's general relativity theory fundamental to understanding them.

Despite this, for various decades the broader astrophysical community has considered stellar evolution to be a mostly "solved" area of physics, with the most interesting questions to be answered lying elsewhere. But this has recently changed significantly; large surveys have discovered an enormous variety of transient phenomena that challenge our understanding of stellar evolution, and it has been established that most massive stars do not evolve in isolation but actually interact strongly with nearby companions. And the discovery of merging binary black holes further adds mysteries to be solved. The field is lively with discussions and open questions, making it a fertile place for a theorist like me.

What is the most exciting project you have worked on so far?
My work on progenitors for binary black hole mergers has been definitely the most exciting so far. Our traditional understanding indicates that throughout their lifetimes massive stars that would produce black holes like those detected by the laser-interferometer gravitational-wave observatory (LIGO) expand significantly, reaching radii well above a thousand times that of the Sun.

However, for two black holes to merge in less than the lifetime of the universe, they have to be separated by much less than a hundred times the radius of the Sun. Various potential mechanisms have been studied for decades to bring such pairs of black holes close together, but instead my research focused on a different process, which prevents the expansion of massive stars and thus allows a pair of very close stars (orbiting each other in about a day) to directly form a pair of black holes close enough to each other to produce a merger. Participating in the discussion of how these sources are formed has been extremely enriching, and knowing I can contribute even a bit towards understanding such a historic detection has been very satisfying.

What else are you hoping to do at CIERA or more into the future?
One thing I missed while studying in Germany was participating in outreach activities. There was always a language barrier preventing me from doing that, and my German skills where never good enough to effectively communicate science to the public. I hope to reengage in these activities, which I've always found very rewarding.

In terms of my research, being part of an institute that's strongly involved in different detectors of gravitational waves I expect to gain a stronger knowledge of how these detectors actually work, in order to more effectively connect my theoretical work with the actual observations being made. Moreover, the same physical effects that produce gravitational wave sources play a big role in other high energy phenomena, such as bright X-ray sources or different transient events such as supernovae. Constructing a broad picture and modelling tools that allow the simultaneous study of all these phenomena will be of paramount importance to constrain uncertain physical processes, and is one of the things I intend to focus my career on for the coming years.

What do you like to do when not working in CIERA?
I really enjoy reading, and its a fundamental part of my daily commute. I have a tendency to go around used bookstores and buy way more books than I could possibly read.

Deanne Coppejans
Summer 2017

Why did you choose CIERA for your post doctorate work?
That was mainly because of Raffaella Margutti. Sheís doing some really cool work in a variety of wavelengthsóI was keen to learn thatóand sheís working with exciting physics like exploding stars and jets.

What have you enjoyed about working in CIERA in your time here so far?
Well, Iíve expanded my field a lot so thatís been really fun. I never used to work on explosions of stars so thatís a new field for me that Iíve been learning about. Itís also nice at CIERA that there are a lot of high-profile visitors in lots of different fields. Itís exciting to hear them talk about their work.

Why did you choose observational astronomy as your focus?
Strangely enough, I did my honors degree, which is your equivalent of the last year of undergrad here, in theoretical physics. But then my institute at the University of Cape Town was doing some really exciting new work observationally at that stage, so I did my Masters of Science with observations and I really, really enjoyed that.

What is the most exciting project you have worked on so far?
At CIERA, the most exciting project is looking for jets in the most luminous stellar explosions, and using data from radio telescopes to constrain their properties. The most exciting project that I worked on during my PhD was when I showed that Cataclysmic Variable starsóa type of binary staróproduce radio emission, and can be used to study the physics of jets.

What else are you hoping to do at CIERA or more into the future?
I am hoping to expand my expertise of a lot of different wavelengths, [including] how to use x-ray data. And leading on from my PhD, I was looking at jets from small weak objects and now Iím expanding to jets from the most powerful explosions in the universe. So to summarize, Iím hoping to learn more about jet physics here.

What do you like to do when not working in CIERA?
I like playing guitar! I started learning a few years ago. I also really like walking and traveling and cooking. I think Iceland was my favorite destinationóthat was incredible. It was a trip for fun. We hired a car and drove the whole way around the island and we went hiking in the glaciers and spelunking in the ice caves. Iíve also been on road trips before in the United States, like the Grand Canyonóthat was amazing, too. But this is my first time in Illinois.

Daniel Anglés-Alcázar
Summer 2016

Why did you choose CIERA as the place to do your post-doctorate work?
It was a combination of things. Here, you can develop your very own research program independently, where you work for yourself and have the freedom to decide what your research program is for the next three years. Itís really awesome compared to many post≠doc positions where you essentially have to join a research program and do whatever your boss wants you to do. Also, my specialty is simulations of galaxy formation, and by the time I arrived here Claude-Andrť Faucher-GiguŤre was here as an assistant professor. He started a group in galaxy formation theory, so I was super excited to join the group and collaborate on different projects.

How would you describe the experience of working at CIERA thus far?
Iíd say good, exciting, and challenging. There are always things going on here. CIERA has a very active group of people, doing many different activities. We receive lots of visitors, and have a lot of different seminars, talks, group meetings. There are many opportunities to meet people and discuss things with people.

What are some of your favorite projects or research that you are involved in?
I work on simulating the connection between supermassive black holes and galaxies. I am doing that by doing cosmological simulations that incorporate detailed models for black hole growth and feedback. I mainly use computer simulations. We found that the black holes in galaxies co-evolve, in the sense that bigger galaxies host at the center bigger black holes. From the different theories that weíve discussed, the explanation that we came up with is that both the galaxy is forming the stars from the gas reservoir but the black hole is also growing from the same reservoir. The reason why the central black hole is growing at the same rate of the galaxy is because thereís a common gas supply, regulated by gravitational torques. This is an important discovery because itís in contrast with models that people have developed that have dominated in the past few years.

What do you find most unique about your experience at CIERA?
The combination of opportunities that we have as postdocs here; again, the freedom to pursue research plus a very active place. The opportunity to work with the students as well is unique.

Tell us something about yourself.
Iím from Spain originally. I did my undergrad in Spain in physics, and I did a Masters in Puerto Rico in galactic star formation and observations. Then, I moved to the University of Arizona in Tucson, and started working on galaxy formation simulations. I then moved here as my first postdoc position, with the goal of continuing the research in galaxy formation.

Jessie Duncan & Leah Perri
Spring 2016

On February 11, 2016 the National Science Foundation and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration announced that their scientists successfully, for the first time, directly detected gravitational waves - or ripples in the fabric of spacetime - using the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO). CIERA faculty members Vicky Kalogera and Shane Larson were heavily involved in the discovery, as were their research groups.

Two undergraduate students were part of the discovery team. Jessie Duncan, a junior in WCAS studying physics and creating writing, and Leah Perri, a junior in WCAS studying physics and cognitive science. (Pictured: Jessie, right, and Leah, center, in a group meeting with Prof. Kalogera, left.)

How did you become interested in astrophysics?
Jessie: Iíve always been really into science fiction and really interested in space. I realized when I took physics in high school it was something I could do, and something I was good at. So I came to Northwestern knowing I wanted to do astrophysics. I got involved in LIGO during my sophomore year. I emailed a bunch of people, a lot of professors, and Vicky [Kalogera] got back to me. The project seemed the most straightforward and easy to start with, and they have a really good support network for undergrads.
Leah: Iíve just always been interested in astrophysics and the big questions - the universe, cosmology, philosophy related questions. This led me down a scientific path. Iím also a really logical person, I like math and science, which made me interested in physics. I was terrified of physics at first and tried to avoid it, and I thought I would fail AP physics but I did well.

What did you contribute to the LIGO project?
Jessie: Both Leah and I and the grad students have done test runs on the Northwestern supercomputing resources. We have been injecting fake signals into the system to see what it would look like if there was a gravitational wave. Then, we have been testing different statistical models to tell how big it is, whatís happening, how far away it is, and other information from the data. It involves sitting in a room, writing code, testing data, sending it to the supercomputer and presenting it to faculty. Iím studying neutron star mergers because theyíre smaller mass and therefore more computationally expensive, so Iím trying to find shortcuts we can use to make the time to analyze lower mass events shorter.
Leah: My project is determining if weíre given electromagnetic information and weíre told by people with telescopes that thereís a binary merger at this point in the sky, if we can determine things like mass and spin of the event.

How did you find out about the gravitational wave discovery, and how did you react?
Jessie: It was kind of a slow burn - there were rumors on the internet and everything on the internet for months before it was official. The last couple of weeks within the research group it was very tongue in cheek, because no one could confirm it. We were not selected to do runs on the event because we were working on other projects.

What has your life been like since the discovery?
Jessie: People are much more interested - like, my friends, the week of, were really interested. My mom said that I discovered gravitational waves, so Iím getting way too much credit. The pace of the research group has picked up significantly. Now itís a field thatís been established for real, itís not just theoretical at all, so there are more expectations.
Leah: They put a rush on our projects. Itís really cool to see how people may not understand the ďgravityĒ (no pun intended) about the situation but they understand that something really big is going on and how thatís changing science. Itís cool to see how this stuff trickles down into the public but now they understand itís important.

How does it feel, as young women in science, to be involved in the research group?
Jessie: Gender hasnít entered into my experience with CIERA at all. All the negative stuff has been interactions with students, and vague attitudes from people who arenít in the physics program being like ďreally, youíre majoring in that?Ē Thereís an air of surprise when I understand something in class. I canít tell if itís because Iím a girl or a girl who wears sorority letters to class or something like that.
Leah: I think itís fair to say that if you were a guy who wore letters you wouldn't receive that treatment. CIERA and the LIGO group here as a whole are great and non-discriminatory, but Iíve had experiences where Iíve felt discriminated against for being a woman in science.

How has being involved in this discovery impacted your career goals?
Leah: I want to get a PhD in physics and astronomy. Itís definitely made me want to do research for the rest of my life because seeing the progression from something where nothing is going on and becoming really involved and passionate and seeing the results of everyoneís hard work. People have dedicated decades before the discovery, but itís still cool to see all of the work pay off.
Jessie: Iím definitely not going to grad school directly following college - Iím definitely not certain but would consider it at some point. Physics is something Iíll always be interested in but I donít have to remain super involved in it to remain interested. I consider my degree to be a liberal arts degree, teaching me how to think on a high technical level.

Laura Fissel
Spring 2016

Why did you choose CIERA as the place to do your post-doctorate work? I chose CIERA because they play a really key role in BLAST (a balloon-borne telescope project that studies magnetic fields in star nurseries.) Giles (Novak) is basically the star formation expert and magnetic field expert in our group. The idea was I would come here with data that we had taken with BLAST when I was a PhD student, and work on the science with Giles.

How would you describe the experience of working at CIERA?
Itís been really really great. Everyoneís been super supportive, and Giles has been great to work with as well. Thereís a lot of really good mentorship here of postdocs. Thereís lots of opportunities to interact with other postdocs working in different areas with different expertise, which gives you a different perspective on the problems youíve been working on in your research and the things youíre trying to learn from your data.

What are some of your favorite projects or research that you are involved in?
For BLAST, I have two main jobs. One is for the instrument, where I build the control systems and the software. BLAST operates from a balloon the size of a football stadium, and then attached to that is a parachute, and attached to that is the telescope hanging from the bottom. I work on all the systems to actually get the telescope to operate. We want to be able to point it at the sky, so I worked on the motor control system that allows it to look at different points in the sky and the software that tells it where to point. The telescope has to act like a giant flying robot, because sometimes there arenít satellites we can use that are within range to communicate with it. Oftentimes you can have 6-12 hours where the telescope is just doing its own thing, and it needs to know where it should be pointing, know what should be firing at what time, recording the data and sending it down to the ground, keeping the detectors and camera from overheating, and recording that everythingís working alright. Thatís really important and I worked on that and thatís fun because itís like building giant space robots. In terms of the science, I looked into these star forming regions and determined which ones that are close to us so we can get a really clear view, and which ones are in the interesting stage where they are really really young and in the very earliest stages of star formation. Now, Iím actually getting to do science with the data. Weíre producing these incredibly detailed maps of magnetic fields. Weíre learning more information about the dust thatís emitting this polarized emission and getting some really cool results.

What will you miss the most about CIERA?
Iíll definitely miss our polarization research group here, theyíre really really great and very supportive though Iíll still be working with them by phone. Iíll still talk to them several times a week. It makes a difference having Giles [Novak] next door. CIERA has a lot of really great people coming through, really great talks here, lots of opportunities to go to talks in different areas (physics, geology, etc.) very active environment, a lot going on all the time. Iíll definitely miss that. Itís just a very supportive environment for postdocs and itís been a lot of fun being here. Itís been a really good three years.

Tell us something about you.
Iím originally from Vancouver Island in British Columbia, just north of Seattle. I did my undergraduate at the University of Victoria on Vancouver Island; when I was an undergraduate I started doing research semesters at various institutions, including a telescope in Hawaii, and the Herzberg Institute in Canada. After I finished my undergraduate degree, I got my PhD at University of Toronto.

Fabio Antonini
Winter 2016

Why did you choose CIERA as the place to do your post-doctorate work?
I started a year ago. Itís a very diverse environment, where you can work on many different things. Many people here also have many research interests in common with mine. For me it was a natural place to work. Itís also not as established as other places like Princeton and Harvard but it will soon become one of those places, so itís more exciting to be in an environment that is progressing to become more established.

How would you describe the experience of working at CIERA thus far?
CIERA is this interactive group, and that interaction makes me want to go to work and spend more time here, itís more exciting. Before coming to CIERA I was in Toronto, and there each one of them was doing separate things, but here itís more exciting and interactive. I think compared to other places I feel more part of a group than by myself, researching on my own.

What are some of your favorite projects or research that you are involved in?
I work on stellar dynamics. Most of my research is at the galactic center, and I study how stars move around the center of the galaxy. At the center of the galaxy thereís a supermassive black hole which is 4 million times the mass of a regular black hole. It absorbs stars that are close to it. The stars interact with each other, gravitationally, and they also interact with the supermassive black hole. The goal is to use numerical models to understand the long term of the development and evolution of stars due to gravity in this environment. What Iím working on is modeling this region with numerical simulations. We are trying to understand how this very high-density concentration of stars, this nuclear cluster, formed. The stars are very young, but itís a problem because you cannot form stars near a black hole, it does not allow star formation to happen. Instead, we have explained how the stars can migrate to this region through numerical simulations. We use models to understand how they can orbit so close to the black hole too, the orbital distribution.

Tell us something about you.
Iím from Rome, where I did my masters. I did my PhD in Rochester, NY. This is my second postdoc. I love soccer and sports. I like to read.

Aaron Geller
Summer 2015

Why did you choose CIERA as the place to do your post-doctorate work?
I study how stars evolve with time, the environment that they live in, and planetary systems. I had met some faculty previously, and in terms of research, Northwestern is a good fit. Also, my wife Laura and I met in grad school. Weíre both from the Chicago area, so when we were applying for post-docs, we wanted to go to the same place rather than have a long distance relationship. This is a department that is sympathetic to two-body issues, and they offered both of us independent fellowships.

How would you describe the experience of working at CIERA thus far?
Itís been great. Iíve been able to see the transition of CIERA growing up a little. When I started here, I was part of the first cohort of post-docs. Iíve been able to do whatever research Iíve wanted, Iíve had independent fellowship opportunities, and access to as many resources as Iíve needed. The department is great, too.

What are some of your favorite projects or research that you are involved in?
My favorite project is about how planetary systems evolve in star clusters. Iím working with a bunch of people to develop a new piece of software, a modeling tool to study the dynamics when you have a group of hundreds to thousands stars together, and each has a solar system, what happens when those stars are moving around each other. Iím also very interested in the visualization side. Itís very challenging computationally and conceptually. When I was in undergrad, I minored in art. This is the way to bring art back into my work. Iím also co-directing our CIERA interdisciplinary NSF REU program. We have nine students this first year, with about half from Chicago and half from a national pool. There are lots of different research projects - a wide range of theory, observation, and instrumentation.

What do you find most unique about your experience at CIERA?
Having the freedom to pursue my own research direction, and having access to so many different computers and resources is something that is pretty unique. Not all places have access to resources like that. Tell us something about you. I grew up around Chicago. Outside of astronomy, Iím interested in art and music - I play piano, guitar, mandolin, and Hammond organ. When I was in grad school I was in a band with astronomers called The UltraViolet Catastrophe, and we still play every once in a while together.

Laura Trouille
Spring 2015

Why did you choose CIERA as the place to do your post-doctorate work?
I chose NU because it gave me a lot of flexibility in terms of what I could pursue. I do both astronomy research and education, and itís somewhat unusual in astronomy to have a postdoc in both those areas. [CIERA director] Vicky Kalogera is extremely supportive, and understands the impact and need in both those fields. Also, I grew up in Evanston. My family is nearby and my husbandís family is nearby. I love this area.

How would you describe the experience of working at CIERA thus far?
I am now jointly appointed between NU and the Adler Planetarium, which is my dream job. We serve this amazing audience through the Adler and Northwestern has incredible resources to offer. I get to use my skills and expertise to provide a bridge between the two. I love it.

What are some of your favorite projects or research that you are involved in?
The project that allows me to combine both research and outreach is Galaxy Zoo Quench. Post-quenched galaxies are galaxies that recently and abruptly stopped forming stars. There are lots of questions on what caused that star formation to stop. The project is looking at whether major galaxy collisions caused that star formation to stop. The way it brings in the education and outreach is that itís a citizen science project. hosts all these different citizen science projects, and one is called Galaxy Zoo. It was people going in and classifying if the galaxy are a spiral, elliptical, or a complete train wreck. Only 1% or so are these Quench galaxies. We took that subset of a few thousand Quench galaxies and gave them to the Zooniverse community, and asked them to answer specific questions about their morphology. The public didnít stop at classifying the galaxies, they actually did data analysis. About 250 people made plots and tried to understand what the data was saying, and 25 are part of the article writing process. This first experiment showed there is very much an appetite in the public to experience the whole scientific process.

What do you find most unique about your experience at CIERA?
CIERA is interdisciplinary, and pushing to make connections across disciplinary boundaries. For instance, about 3 years ago we started a Computational Thinking in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics] project to bring computational literacy into the science and math classrooms. CIERA allowed this kind of opportunity because of our connections with computer scientists, computational biologists, engineers, and learning scientists.

Tell us something about you.
I grew up here in Evanston. My father is French, so I grew up bilingual and spent all my summers on my grandmotherís farm in France. In graduate school, I competed in womenís roller derby, under the name The Big Bang. I have a daughter who is almost 9 months old. Best experiment so far!