Department News
2016 Yerkes Summer Institute: Spy vs. Spy
August 16, 2016
Instructors: Camille Avestruz, Zoheyr Doctor, Gourav Khullar, Richard G. Kron, Randall H. Landsberg, James Lasker, Phil Mansfield, Sam Passaglia, Rebecca Pierce, Jason Poh.

The 2016 Yerkes Summer Institute (YSI) was filled with secrecy, deception, and espionage. At YSI, high school students in the Space Explorers program played the role of 20th-Century spies to handle secret information: revealing, concealing and distorting information. Through three day-long lab activities, the students explored connections between spying and science. In the "Secret Photos" lab, they studied angular size, resolution, and the film-development process in order to effectively gather information on "enemy operatives" using 35 mm cameras. In the "Radio Beams" lab, students designed, built, and tested a system to transmit audio via an amplitude-modulated (AM) laser, which allowed them to secretly communicate across long distances. Lastly, techniques to securely communicate were examined in the "Codes and Ciphers" lab, which also served as an introduction to modern cryptography. After cycling through these three day labs, the students broke into three new groups and took one of the labs a step further: one group doctored photographs to spread false information, another built AM radio transmitters and receivers, and the last created treasure hunts using codes and ciphers for the clues. Nighttime activities included: observations with the Yerkes telescopes, astrophotography, explorations of the constellations which focused on what current research can tell us about them (e.g. most know exoplanets were found by Kepler in the constellation Cygnus); and bad weather activities that included examinations of the veracity of viral internet photos, and stories of famous spies. The week's spy-themed activities not only introduced the students to the importance of privacy in the digital age, but also to the concepts and skills that are integral to any modern STEM career.

Related:
Department members: Richard G. Kron, Randall H. Landsberg
Department students: Gourav Khullar, James Lasker, Philip Mansfield, Sam Passaglia, Jason Poh

Congratulations to Dr. Sean Johnson!
July 18, 2016
Dr. Sean Johnson
Congratulations to Sean Johnson for successfully defending his Ph.D. dissertation on "Studies of the relationship between galaxies and the inter/circum-galactic medium".

"Sean's thesis work casts new light on the intricate physical processes that drive the baryon cycles between star-forming regions and the intergalactic space. He led an ambitious survey of the galactic environments around chemically-enriched gas revealed in strong absorption against a background source. Sean's thesis sample represents the first of its kind in terms of both the scale and depth of galaxy survey data in quasar fields. It provides a pathfinder for future large-scale studies that will combine wide-field galaxy surveys with absorption spectroscopy to advance our understanding of chemical enrichment in low-density regions away from galaxies."
- Hsiao-Wen Chen, PhD advisor

Sean will be starting as a Carnegie-Princeton/Hubble fellow at Princeton in the fall.

Related:
Department members: Hsiao-Wen Chen
Department students: Sean Johnson

Congratulations to Dr. Asher Berlin!
July 8, 2016
Dr. Asher Berlin
Congratulations to Asher Berlin for successfully defending his Ph.D. dissertation on "Phenomenology of Particle Dark Matter".

"Asher's work has covered a broad range of topics related to dark matter and efforts to reveal its particle nature. He has worked on theory calculations relevant to underground and space-based dark matter searches and to searches for dark matter at the Large Hadron Collider. More recently, he has worked on non-standard ways in which dark matter may be have created in the early universe."
- Dan Hooper, PhD advisor

Asher has received a Post Doctoral Fellow position at SLAC.

Related:
Department members: Dan Hooper
Department students: Asher Berlin

Congratulations to Dr. Jonathan Richardson!
June 23, 2016
Dr. Jonathan Richardson
Congratulations to Jonathan Richardson for successfully defending his Ph.D. dissertation on "Experimental Constraints on the Exotic Shearing of Space-Time".

"Jon's thesis represents an important milestone. He's done much of the critical work to make the Holometer experiment a reality. It's the most sensitive instrument ever built to study tiny random jitters of space. In his thesis, he shows that the scale of random shear jitter is more than an order of magnitude less than the Planck length, which was the theoretical expectation. The experiment essentially rules out this effect. He's working with our team now to reconfigure the machine to study the other possibility, a jitter of rotational motion, at similar sensitivity. There is some hope that this effect in the laboratory may connect with the cosmic dark energy problem."
- Craig J. Hogan

Jonathan has received a Research Fellow position at the University of Michigan.

Related:
Department members: Craig J. Hogan, Stephan S. Meyer
Department students: Jonathan Richardson

Congratulations to Prof. Angela V. Olinto!
May 31, 2016
Angela V. Olinto named a Homer J. Livingston Distinguished Service Professor effective July 1, 2016.

Related:
Department members: Angela V. Olinto

Congratulations to Dr. Laura Kreidberg!
May 24, 2016
Dr. Laura Kreidberg
Congratulations to Laura Kreidberg for successfully defending her PhD dissertation on "Snapshots of Faraway Places: Intensive Atmosphere Characterization of Extrasolar Planets."

"Laura conducted the most ambitious observational programs ever on the topic of exoplanet atmospheres for her dissertation. She used large investments of Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescope time to measure exoplanet atmospheric compositions, thermal structures, energy budgets, and dynamics to understand planetary origins and physics. The papers resulting from her work are the new benchmarks in the field, and provide a foundation for studying the atmospheres of potentially habitable planets with future facilities."
- Jacob L. Bean, Ph.D. advisor

Starting this summer Laura will be a Junior Fellow of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University and a Fellow of the Institute for Theory and Computation at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Related:
Department members: Jacob L. Bean
Department students: Laura Kreidberg

Megan Bedell wins a Harper Dissertation Fellowship
May 22, 2016
Dear Colleagues,

Please join me in congratulating Megan Bedell for winning a William Rainey Harper Dissertation Fellowship for the 2016-17 academic year. The intent of the award is two-fold: to recognize significant achievement and to facilitate completion of the doctoral degree. This award, one of the University of Chicago's highest honors, recognizes significant achievement during graduate studies and professional promise.

Congratulations Megan!

Angela V. Olinto,
Homer J. Livingston Professor and Chair Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics

Related:
Department members: Jacob L. Bean, Angela V. Olinto
Department students: Megan Bedell

Wayne Hu elected to the National Academy of Sciences
May 3, 2016
Wayne Hu is the Horace B. Horton Professor in the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Enrico Fermi Institute, and the College. His research focuses on the theory and phenomenology of structure formation in the Universe as revealed in Cosmic Microwave Background anisotropies, gravitational lensing, galaxy clustering and galaxy clusters.

Related:
Department members: Wayne Hu

Congratulations to Prof. Joshua Frieman!
April 20, 2016
Prof. Joshua Frieman
Please join me in congratulating Josh Frieman on his election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Membership in this oldest of US academies is a high honor and one well deserved by our friend and colleague Josh Frieman.

For more about the American Academy and the class of 2016 honorees see: Newly Elected Fellows

- Michael S. Turner

Related:
Department members: Joshua A. Frieman, Michael S. Turner

Congratulations to Dr. Alexander (Sasha) Kaurov!
March 29, 2016
Dr. Alexander (Sasha) Kaurov
Congratulations to Alexander (Sasha) Kaurov for successfully defending his PhD dissertation on "Challenges in theoretical modeling of cosmic reionization."

"Dr. Alexander Kaurov's work on studying cosmic reionization - the process of ionization of the bulk of cosmic gas by ultraviolet radiation from the first stars and quasars - was instrumental in combining diverse theoretical concepts into a single, unified paradigm that connects directly with modern state-of-the-art numerical simulations. This breakthrough will have numerous practical applications for the analysis and interpretation of the forthcoming observational data from the future James Webb Space Telescope, Giant Magellan Telescope, and radio observations of the epoch when the first galaxies lit up."
- Nickolay Y. Gnedin, Ph.D. advisor

Alexander has received a position at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, NJ.

Related:
Department members: Nickolay Y. Gnedin
Department students: Alexander A. Kaurov

Life Long Learning program
March 9, 2016
This spring, graduate students, postdocs, and Professors from KICP and the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics will present at least 19 lectures to older adults throughout Chicago, as part of the Life Long Learning program associated with Daniel Grin's NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellowship. Adults past retirement age make up an increasingly large demographic, and continued cognitive/social engagement are crucial for healthy aging. We'll bring basic and cutting-edge content in astrophysics to interested older adults at city senior centers, retirement homes, and public libraries. We are always looking for more presenters to reach wider audiences. To conclude this year's program, we will bring hundreds of older adults to the Adler Planetarium in June free of charge.

Related:
Department members: Manos Chatzopoulos, Daniel Fabrycky, Michael D. Gladders, Daniel Grin, Richard G. Kron, Stephan S. Meyer
Department students: Megan Bedell, Sean Johnson, Laura Kreidberg

Wendy Freedman wins the Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics for 2016
January 5, 2016
Wendy Freedman, John & Marion Sullivan University Professor
Congratulations to University Professor Wendy Freedman for being awarded the Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics for 2016!

Citation: "For her outstanding contributions and leadership role in using optical and infrared space- and ground-based observations of Cepheid stars, together with innovative analysis techniques, to greatly improve the accuracy of the cosmic distance scale and thereby constrain fundamental cosmological parameters."

Related:
Department members: Wendy Freedman

Erik Shirokoff has received a NSF CAREER award
December 22, 2015
Congratulations to Assistant Professor Erik Shirokoff for being awarded a NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program award for "Developing Antenna-Coupled Kinetic Inductance Detectors to Enable Next Generation CMB Experiments". The team will design, build and demonstrate arrays of Kinetic Inductance Detectors (KIDs). A KID contains a very cold, resistance-free device. That device changes its properties when it "sees" the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), the faint signal from the young Universe. Vast arrays of KIDs are needed for the next generation of CMB experiments. The team will also provide laboratory experience for undergraduates from underrepresented minorities and for high school students in the Chicago area.

The CAREER award is presented to junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

Related:
Department members: Erik Shirokoff

Sean Johnson and Laura Kreidberg have won AAS Doxsey Travel Prizes
November 12, 2015
Congratulations to Sean Johnson and Laura Kreidberg for winning AAS Doxsey Travel Prizes!

"Dear Doxsey Prize Winner,
On behalf of AAS President Dr. C. Megan Urry and AAS Executive Officer Dr. Kevin B. Marvel, congratulations! You are among the 9 winners of the Rodger Doxsey Travel Prize for the AAS's 227th meeting in Kissimmee, FL. This prize, which was enabled by generous donations from Rodger Doxsey's family, friends, and colleagues to honor Rodger's memory and lifetime achievements, is given annually for our winter meeting. We will highlight your dissertation presentation in the meeting program book and in other meeting-related materials."
- American Astronomical Society

Related:
Department members: Jacob L. Bean, Hsiao-Wen Chen
Department students: Sean Johnson, Laura Kreidberg

Prof. Richard Kron is the new Assistant Chair for Academic Affairs
September 24, 2015
Dear Colleagues,

I am very pleased to announce that Prof. Richard Kron will become the new Assistant Chair for Academic Affairs, starting October 1, 2015. Rich will continue to lead the implementation of the new AstroU program for undergraduates as well as oversee the success of the careers of our graduate students. Rich will have the support of Dr. Julia Borst Brazas as our new part-time Academic Affairs Administrator, who will also serve as the Assistant to the Assistant Chair for Academic Affairs. Ms. Laticia Rebeles will continue to work closely with our graduate and undergraduate students, and with Julia and Rich, in her role as the full-time Student Affairs Administrator.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Prof. Michael Gladders who, in addition to his other duties, has provided great leadership as Assistant Chair for Academic Affairs. Mike finished implementing the reorganization of the graduate curriculum and spearheaded the development of the Astro Core sequences in the College. He also effectively shepherded our graduate students into completing their theses efficiently and preparing for a productive postdoctoral career. Please join me in thanking Mike for his service and congratulating Rich as he assumes his new responsibilities.

Angela V. Olinto,
Homer J. Livingston Professor and Chair Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics

Related:
Department members: Julia Borst Brazas, Michael D. Gladders, Richard G. Kron, Angela V. Olinto, Laticia Rebeles