Faculty Spotlight: Sarah Tuttle

Sarah Tuttle recently joined the UW Astronomy Department as an Assistant Professor, and is head of UW’s new Space & Ground Instrumentation Laboratory. In her own words:

Professor Sarah Tuttle“I am primarily an instrumental astrophysicist working on novel hardware approaches, and build spectrographs to study the physical processes of galaxies. I’m interested in isolating processes in galaxies that regulate star formation, especially in trying to detect emission and infall from the inter- and circumgalactic medium. I’m leading a new spectrograph project for Apache Point Observatory to update our spectrographic capabilities. I’ve built instruments for ground based telescopes as well as for balloon-borne telescopes. I’m also deeply invested in understanding how societal systemic biases (like racism and sexism) distort our scientific work, and am working to address those biases in hiring and beyond.”

Q & A

What got you into astronomy?

I really love to look up. I like figuring out how things work. Knowing more about how our universe fits together only makes me more passionate about the work that I do.

What do you find most challenging and rewarding about being an astronomer?

My job is different every single day. I remember being younger and having a job that was somewhat repetitive, and swearing that when I “grew up” I’d do something that wasn’t repetitive at all. It may be a case of “Be careful what you wish for.” I love the mix of activities – from being in the lab, or at the telescope, to teaching and giving public outreach lectures, to sitting down working through the literature, and working with students as they discover the joys (and occasional pains) of research.

What is your favourite aspect about Seattle?

It is a close tie between Mount Rainier looming on the horizon, and the Space Needle. The Space Needle just resonates for me, both on the aesthetic front, and on the awesome engineering front. I hear they used to have an annual pass, which I’m sad no longer exists. If it did, I’d probably go hang out on the observation deck and work while the world drifted by.