You can find information about our faculty members below. Click on a name to go to an individual’s profile page.
Note: email addresses are @astro.washington.edu unless otherwise specified.
Eric Agol studies extrasolar planets, binary stars, and gravitational lensing. He uses analytic computations, numerical simulations, and observations to discover and characterize these objects. With collaborators, he was the first to propose that radio observations could be used to image the shadow of the event horizon of a black hole and the first to create an infrared longitudinal map of an extrasolar planet. He has written computer code used to characterize over 2000 transiting extrasolar planets, and he has proposed a novel technique for finding planets as small in mass as the Earth.
Scott Anderson’s current research interests focus on observational studies of accretion driven phenomena, including quasars and compact binaries. Along with affiliated students and postdocs, Anderson makes use of data from a variety of ground- (e.g., ARC 3.5m) and space-based instruments (e.g., Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory). He is also actively involved in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), as the co-PI (with P. Green of CfA) of the Time Domain Spectroscopic Survey in SDSS-IV and as the Program Head of the Black Hole Mapper being developed for the next-generation phase (“After Sloan IV”). Anderson teaches courses related to high energy astrophysics and radiative processes.
My primary interests are the formation, evolution, and chemistry of planetary nebulae (“PNe”)*. The processes that form and shape PNe remain amount the least understood facets of stellar evolution. I use images and spectroscopy to understand an interpret their shapes and internal motions. From this my colleagues and I generate hydrodynamical models of their evolution and probe their significance in the cosmic enrichment of helium, carbon and nitrogen. *95% of all stars that we see in our own galaxy, the Milky Way, will ultimately become “planetary nebulae”. This includes the Sun. Much as a butterfly emerges when its chrysalis is ejected, planetary nebulae are formed when a red giant star ejectes its outer layers as clouds of luminescent gas, revealing the dense, hot, and tiny white…
Rory Barnes is a theorist in the Virtual Planetary Laboratory primarily interested in the formation and evolution of habitable planets. He focuses on planets in and around the “habitable zones” of low-mass stars, showing how their composition, orbital oscillations, and tidal processes affect our concept of planetary habitability. He has also worked extensively on the orbital evolution of giant exoplanets, demonstrating that most multiple planets systems appear packed, meaning no more can exist between those that are known. He is the editor of the book “Formation and Evolution of Exoplanets” (Wiley-VCH). Rory is also a member of the Astrobiology Program, the SDSS-III MARVELS collaboration, the APOSTLE survey of transiting exoplanets, and the N-Body Shop.
Research Assistant Professor
I am leading the development of major portions of two new optical time-domain surveys, the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). My primary research interest is using the resulting massive optical variability datasets to identify rare compact binaries and to classify other sources of high energy radiation. I use the ARC 3.5m and other telescopes to follow up transient and variable objects discovered by ZTF.
Don’s primary research interests focus on the origin and evolution of planetary materials, planets and planetary systems. He is extensively involved with the laboratory study of primitive materials from asteroids and comets and he is PI of the NASA’s Stardust comet sample return mission. He is also a member of the UW Astrobiology program and he has recently co-authored two books with UW paleontologist Peter Ward on the Earth’s evolution to become a habitat for advanced life and the remarkable aspects of the processes involved as viewed from the perspectives of space and time.
My work focuses on using large surveys to study cosmology and the evolution of galaxies. This ranges from studying the clustering of galaxies and their evolution with redshift, weak gravitational lensing of galaxies, and estimating the properties of galaxies based on their colors (aka photometric redshifts). The common theme to this work is addressing the need for massive data sets and how to work with them. One area that interests me a lot at the moment is the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) where I lead the development of simulations of what LSST might observe. Beyond cosmology, I am also interested in how to make the technologies that companies use to search the internet useful in research and education. As…
Professor and Chair
Julianne Dalcanton works on galaxy formation and evolution, focusing primarily on what can be learned in the nearby universe. Her group is currently working on several large projects studying the resolved stellar populations of nearby galaxies using HST, their neutral gas distribution with the VLA, and their stellar mass, dust, and star formation properties with Spitzer. She also works closely with the N-body shop on the interface between observation and numerical theory.
Assistant Teaching Professor
Oliver teaches hundreds of Astro 101 students each year, as well as classes in astronomical observing and science communication. His work with the UW in the High School Program and the Astronomy Education Clearinghouse helps support many other classrooms outside of the UW; and he is the Associate Director of the Manastash Ridge Observatory.
Suzanne Hawley works in stellar astrophysics, particularly in the areas of magnetic activity, low mass stars, brown dwarfs and variable stars. In addition, she studies star clusters, the stellar content of dwarf galaxies, and galactic structure. She is co-author of a graduate textbook with Neill Reid entitled “New Light on Dark Stars” (Springer-Praxis). Suzanne also serves as the Director of the ARC 3.5-m telescope at Apache Point Observatory.
Željko Ivezić (pronounced something like Gel-co Eva-zich) obtained undergraduate degrees in mechanical engineering and physics from the University of Zagreb, Croatia, in 1990 and 1991. He obtained Ph.D. in physics from the University of Kentucky in 1995, where he worked on dust radiative transfer models and wrote the code Dusty. He moved on to Princeton University in 1997 to work on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and took a professorship at the University of Washington, Seattle, in 2004. Željko’s scientific interests are in detection, analysis and interpretation of electromagnetic radiation from astronomical sources. His current obsession is the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope project, for which he serves as the Project Scientist.
Associate Professor & Senior Data Science Fellow
I’m interested in astronomical ‘Big Data’: developing and applying methods and algorithms that let us use large data sets to answer research questions. Major astronomical surveys of today are routinely collecting hundreds of terabytes of images, creating databases with billions of objects and several billion measurements. Large surveys astronomers are becoming part data scientists. In my research, I go where the data takes me — I’ve worked on topics ranging from asteroids in the Solar System, Galactic structure, to the scale structure of the universe. My current focus is using survey data to understand the structure and evolution of the Milky Way. I also lead the Data Management team for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, a project to build the…
My interests involve teaching astronomy, primarily introductory astronomy courses for undergraduates, with the goal of incorporating the latest active-learning techniques for large classes to give students here the best in-person experience possible. I spend roughly half of my time working on the development of these courses, which includes both section lab exercises and online activities. The other half of my time is devoted to the expansion of our online presence where I’m currently developing online versions of our in-person classes to reach more students and provide the same high-quality experience they should expect from our department.
Teaching Professor Emeritus
My interests lie in teaching multi-level astronomy courses incorporating active student participation in lectures, labs, and on-line exercises, and curriculum development for these courses, including a published lecture activity book: Learning Astronomy by Doing Astronomy – Collaborative Lecture Activities. Members of the League of Astronomers and I are involved in a long-term project doing photometry of little-studied open clusters to determine stellar metallicities based on Stromgren observations at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria, BC. I am involved in the outreach program here, primarily with the Jacobsen Observatory, and in teaching students how to give great scientific public talks.
My primary interest is working with students – both in and out of the Astronomy major – to get all they can from their time here at the University. I dedicate most of my working hours to developing the courses I teach, and to mentoring those students who wish to extend the reach of their education beyond the classroom. I also directly investigate ways of improving the experiences of undergraduates in Astronomy, and have led the development in recent years of University-sponsored Learning Goals for our undergraduates, along with metrics to assess the department’s performance in helping students to meet those goals. Finally, I’m an adjunct member of a number of active observational research programs, focused primarily (but not exclusively!)…
Emily Levesque’s research interests are focused on massive stellar astrophysics and the use of massive stars as cosmological tools. Her current research program includes panchromatic observations and models of star-forming galaxies and their young stellar populations; host galaxy and progenitor studies of massive star transients such as LBVs, supernovae, and long-duration gamma-ray bursts; surveys of evolved massive stars in and beyond the Local Group; and the properties of Thorne-Zytkow objects.
Professor Lutz is interested in understanding the physical characteristics of planetary nebulae and their central stars and how these objects fit into the patterns of stellar evolution. She also analyzes the spectra of symbiotic stars (binaries containing an evolved hot star and a cool star) to determine their chemical compositions, velocities and variability. She has broad interests in astronomy education, including working with K-12 educators, museums, science centers and after-school program.
mcquinn@uw [*dot*] edu
Matt is a theoretical astrophysicist and cosmologist. He works on testing models for the intergalactic medium, predicting the observational signatures of the first galaxies, and modeling the large-scale structure of the Universe.
Victoria Meadows is an astrobiologist and planetary astronomer whose research interests focus on acquisition and analysis of remote-sensing observations of planetary atmospheres and surfaces. In addition to studying planets within our own Solar System, she is interested in exoplanets, planetary habitability and biosignatures. Since 2000, she has been the Principal Investigator for the Virtual Planetary Laboratory Lead Team of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. Her NAI team uses models of planets, including planet-star interactions, to generate plausible planetary environments and spectra for extrasolar terrestrial planets and the early Earth. This research is being used to help define signs of habitability and life for future extrasolar terrestrial planet detection and characterization missions.
Tom leads the N-body shop, where he works on running and analyzing N-body simulations of structure formation in the Universe and planet formation. His other research interests include Galactic and Solar System dynamics. He is a member of the UW Astrobiology program.
Acting Assistant Professor
My work involves developing new instrumentation and software for telescopes, especially for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) for which I’m the software lead. I’m also interested in all thing’s galaxy-related, mainly star formation at different scales and its quenching, gas in galaxies, and feedback processes. I’m a part of the MaNGA team that has obtained optical integral field spectroscopy of over 10,000 galaxies.
Associate Teaching Professor
My primary research and teaching interests are focused on the processes that shape the surfaces of the worlds of our solar system. In particular, my research has focused on investigating and sampling terrestrial meteorite craters to study the physical process that create and distribute meteoritic material around them. My primary teaching interests are the geological processes and history of the solar system and the history of the Apollo Lunar missions.
Professor Emeritus, joint with History of Science
Professor Sullivan’s interests are in astrobiology, in particular the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), as well as the history of astronomy. Recent SETI activity has included a collaboration with the Serendip group, using the Arecibo 1000-foot dish for an all-sky search for a wide variety of signal modulation at 21 cm (seti@home project). History of astronomy research has been on the twentieth century, in particular the development of early radio astronomy (Cosmic Noise: A History of Early Radio Astronomy,2009) and ideas about extraterrestrial life, as well as a long-term project designed to produce a biography of William Herschel. Together with John Baross (Biological Oceanography) he has produced the graduate textbook Planets and Life: The Emerging Science of Astrobiology (2007).
Professor Szkody uses a multiwavelength approach to study close binary stars with active mass transfer (Cataclysmic Variables). Her current research involves ultraviolet observations with the Hubble Space Telescope as well as APO and ground-based optical facilities around the world. She is currently finding the faintest, lowest mass transfer CVs leading to insights into the nature of mass transfer and accretion onto magnetic and non-magnetic white dwarfs, accretion disks and their X-ray-emitting boundary layers, stellar coronae, and the effects of irradiation on the upper atmospheres of late-type secondary stars.
Sarah Tuttle is primarily an instrumental astrophysicist who dabbles in observations of nearby galaxies. Her work is focused on novel approaches to observing faint and diffuse matter, as well as techniques supporting integral field spectroscopy. Her past work involved using UV spectroscopy to try and detect the intergalactic medium. She was also the instrument scientist for VIRUS – a massively replicated spectrograph currently coming online at McDonald Observatory to detect dark energy at intermediate redshifts. Professor Tuttle’s current interests include novel materials for astronomical gratings and filters, as well as approaches to bring polarimetry (and spectropolarimetry) to small telescopes.
Professor Wallerstein’s research is oriented around the chemical composition of stellar atmospheres. These are important clues to the composition to the origin of the star and its evolution. Stars reflect the environments of their formation by the composition of the gasses in their atmospheres. For example, stars formed 10-15 billion years ago in globular clusters show that these clusters ceased to produce the heavy elements seen in the Sun after only 1 percent of the solar level of heavies were produced. Other stellar atmospheres show a composition which was changed by nuclear reactions in their interiors. Prof. Wallerstein works closely with his students in observations at the telescope and the analysis of these data using computer models of stellar atmospheres….
Jessica Werk studies the extended gaseous components of galaxies and the role they play in galaxy formation and evolution. She is primarily an observational astronomer with expertise in optical and ultraviolet spectroscopy, and uses both ground and space-based telescopes to carry out her research. She works closely with theorists in defining observational constraints for cosmological simulations (such as those generated in the UW N-body shop), and in physically interpreting her own observations.
Research Assistant Professor
Research Interests: Galaxy evolution and stellar evolution using observations of nearby galaxies. In particular, I am heavily involved in Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory, and XMM-Newton surveys of galaxies within 10 Mpc. By resolving the individual stars and X-ray sources of these galaxies with these great observatories, we can learn how these galaxies have come to appear as they do today.