Department News: 2011
Physicist and former astronaut John Grunsfeld to head NASA Science Mission Directorate
December 19, 2011
by David Weaver
Dec. 19, 2011
WASHINGTON -- NASA has named physicist and former astronaut John Grunsfeld as the new associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. Grunsfeld will take the reins of the office effective Jan. 4, 2012. He succeeds Ed Weiler, who retired from NASA on Sept. 30.

Grunsfeld currently serves as the deputy director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which manages the science program for the Hubble Space Telescope and is a partner in the forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope. His background includes research in high energy astrophysics, cosmic ray physics and in the emerging field of exoplanet studies with specific interest in future astronomical instrumentation.

A veteran of five space shuttle flights, Grunsfeld visited Hubble three times as an astronaut, performing a total of eight spacewalks to service and upgrade the observatory.

"John's understanding of the critical connection between scientific research and the human exploration of space makes him an ideal choice for this job," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "I look forward to working with him to take the agency's science programs to even greater heights and make more of the ground-breaking discoveries about Earth and our universe for which NASA is known."

Grunsfeld graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1980 with a bachelor's degree in physics. Returning to his native Chicago, he earned a master's degree and, in 1988, a doctorate in physics from the University of Chicago using a cosmic ray experiment on space shuttle Challenger for his doctoral thesis. From Chicago, he joined the faculty of the California Institute of Technology as a Senior Research Fellow in Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy.

Grunsfeld joined NASA's Astronaut Office in 1992. He logged over 58 days in space on five shuttle missions, including 58 hours and 30 minutes of spacewalk time. He first flew to space aboard Endeavour in March 1995 on a mission that studied the far ultraviolet spectra of faint astronomical objects using the Astro Observatory. His second flight was aboard Atlantis in January 1997. The mission docked with the Russian space station Mir and exchanged U.S. astronauts living aboard the outpost. Grunsfeld then flew three shuttle missions - aboard Discovery in December 1999, Columbia in March 2002 and Atlantis in May 2009 -- that successfully serviced and upgraded the Hubble Space Telescope. He served as the payload commander on the 2002 mission and lead spacewalker in charge of Hubble activities on the 2009 flight. In 2004 and 2005, he served as the commander and science officer on the backup crew for Expedition 13 to the International Space Station.

"It is an honor and a privilege to be offered the opportunity to lead NASA's Science Mission Directorate during this exciting time in the agency's history," Grunsfeld said. "Science at NASA is all about exploring the endless frontier of the Earth and space. I look forward to working with the NASA team to help enable new discoveries in our quest to understand our home planet and unravel the mysteries of the universe."

Grunsfeld's NASA astronaut biography
NASA's Science Mission Directorate

Application Submission for the 2012-2013 academic year will begin on Monday, October 31st, 2011
October 20, 2011
The Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics will begin accepting applications for our 2012-2013 academic year. Please read over the requirements, for our department, carefully; especially concerning letters of recommendation and submission of your GRE scores (i.e., institution and department codes), transcripts, and TOEFL scores (where applicable).

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2011
October 4, 2011
The Nobel Prize in Physics 2011 was awarded "for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae" with one half to Saul Perlmutter and the other half jointly to Brian P. Schmidt and Adam G. Riess.

Congratulations to Dr. Reid Sherman!
August 18, 2011
Congratulations to Reid Sherman for successfully defending his PhD dissertation on "Investigation of Molecular Cloud Structure around Infrared Bubbles: CARMA Observations of N14, N22, and N74."

"An important unresolved problem in studies of star formation is the role of feedback. How does the formation of stars in a dense molecular cloud affect the evolution of the cloud and the formation of successive generations of stars?
Reid's research uses newly developed instrumental capabilities of the CARMA telescope array to explore the structure and motions in molecular clouds around "bubbles", pockets of hot ionized gas created by ultraviolet radiation from massive young stars. CARMA's high angular resolution and ability to observe many different parts of the millimeter-wavelength spectrum at the same time allow it to efficiently probe star-forming clouds at scales comparable to the size and density of the "molecular cores" required for the formation of additional high-mass stars."

- Doyal Harper, PhD advisor.

Reid has received a position of Visiting Adjunct Professor, Vassar College.

Related:
Department members: Doyal ''Al'' Harper
Department students: Reid Sherman

Congratulations to our graduate students! They have successfully defended Ph.D. dissertations!
August 1, 2011
Seven our graduate students -- Elizabeth Hicks, Jean-Rene Gauthier, Alexander Belikov, Matthew Bayliss, Zosia Krusberg, Cora Dvorkin, and Megan Gralla -- have successfully defended Ph.D. dissertations.

Elizabeth Hicks
has received a CIERA fellow position at the Northwestern University.

Jean-Rene Gauthier
has received a Millikan fellow postdoctoral position at Caltech.

Alexander Belikov
has received a fellow postdoctoral position at IAP.

Matthew Bayliss
has received a postdoctoral research fellow position at Harvard University.

Zosia Krusberg
has received a position of Visiting Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Vassar College.

Cora Dvorkin
has received a postdoctoral position at the Institute for Advanced Study.

Megan Gralla
has received a postdoctoral position at Johns Hopkins University.

Congratulations and Good Luck!

Congratulations to Dr. Megan Gralla!
July 20, 2011
Congratulations to Megan Gralla for successfully defending her PhD dissertation on "Radio Sources in Galaxy Clusters."

"Dr. Gralla's thesis work has focused on the redshift evolution of the radio source population in galaxy clusters, over a broad swath of both redshift and cluster mass. Understanding the evolution of this active galaxy population is important for models of heating by AGN of the intra-cluster medium, as well as providing input to models addressing the impact of radio sources on Sunyaev-Zeldovich surveys for galaxy clusters."
- Michael Gladders, PhD advisor.

Megan has received a postdoctoral position at Johns Hopkins University.

Related:
Department members: Michael D. Gladders
Department students: Megan Gralla

Congratulations to Dr. Cora Dvorkin!
July 20, 2011
Congratulations to Cora Dvorkin for successfully defending her PhD dissertation on "On the Imprints of Inflation in the Cosmic Microwave Background."

"Cora's Ph.D. research focused on testing inflation with the Cosmic Microwave Background beyond the slow roll approximation. Her work allows for the presence of features in the inflaton potential and enables tests of slow roll and single field inflation that do not depend on the specific form of the potential."
- Wayne Hu, PhD advisor.

Cora has received a postdoctoral position at the Institute for Advanced Study.

Related:
Department members: Wayne Hu
Department students: Cora Dvorkin

Congratulations to Dr. Alexander Belikov!
July 18, 2011
Congratulations to Alexander (Sasha) Belikov for successfully defending his PhD dissertation on "On direct and indirect searches for dark matter."

"Sasha's work has explored many of the different facets of dark matter, from what forms it might take, to how it may have impacted the evolution of our universe. Ultimately, we hope that research such as this will help us to observe dark matter and finally find out what it is."
- Dan Hooper, PhD advisor.

Alexander has received a postdoctoral research fellow position at the IAP.

Related:
Department members: Dan Hooper
Department students: Alexander Belikov

Congratulations to Dr. Zosia Krusberg!
July 18, 2011
Congratulations to Zosia Krusberg for successfully defending her PhD dissertation on "The phenomenology of maverick dark matter."

Zosia has received a position of Visiting Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Vassar College.

Related:
Department members: Edward ''Rocky'' W. Kolb
Department students: Zosia Krusberg

Congratulations to Dr. Matthew Bayliss!
July 18, 2011
Congratulations to Matthew Bayliss for successfully defending his PhD dissertation on "Broadband Photometry of 105 Giant Arcs: Redshift Distribution Constraints and Implications for Giant Arc Statistics".

"Dr. Bayliss' Ph.D. research has focused on the identification and characterisation of several new large samples of gravitational lenses. In particular, his work with both imaging and spectroscopic data, from a range of telescopes, has established for the first time the redshift distribution of the lensed sources, which is a major milestone in using these lenses as cosmological probes and as environments in which to test our understanding of dark matter halo structure."
- Michael Gladders, PhD advisor.

Matthew has received a postdoctoral research fellow position at Harvard University.

Related:
Department members: Michael D. Gladders
Department students: Matthew Bayliss

Congratulations to Dr. Jean-Rene Gauthier!
July 14, 2011
Congratulations to Jean-Rene Gauthier for successfully defending his PhD dissertation on "A comprehensive study of the cool gas content of massive dark matter halos".

"Jean-Rene's PhD thesis has provided new insights into the growth of massive galaxies, discovering the unexpected presence of extended reservoir of cold gas. In the fall, he will be starting a new position at Caltech as a Millikan fellow."
- Hsiao-Wen Chen, PhD advisor.

Related:
Department members: Hsiao-Wen Chen
Department students: Jean-Rene Gauthier

Congratulations to Prof. Andrey Kravtsov!
July 1, 2011
Andrey Kravtsov has been promoted to full Professor. His research interests include formation and properties of galaxies, galaxy clusters, and large-scale structure numerical methods; parallel algorithms; large supercomputer simulations.

Related:
Department members: Andrey V. Kravtsov

New Faculty Members: Jacob Bean and Daniel Fabrycky
June 7, 2011
Dear Members of the Astronomy & Astrophysics Community,

I am happy to announce the appointment of two new faculty members.

Jacob Bean, an observer/instrumentalist, will start autumn 2011, and
Daniel Fabrycky, a theorist, will start autumn 2012.

With these appointments Chicago will have a strong exoplanet program.

- Rocky Kolb

Related:
Department members: Jacob L. Bean, Daniel Fabrycky, Edward ''Rocky'' W. Kolb

Angela Olinto will receive a Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
May 26, 2011
The University has just announced that Angela Olinto will receive a Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at commencement in June. The Quantrell Award is believed to be the nation's oldest prize for undergraduate teaching.

To celebrate this recognition, please join Angela for a gala wine and hors d'oeuvre reception tomorrow, Friday May 27th, 3pm in AAC 123.

Congratulation Angela for this deserved recognition!

- Rocky Kolb

Related:
Department members: Edward ''Rocky'' W. Kolb, Angela V. Olinto