Department News: 2016
KICP Space Explorer Naa Ashitey is the Quest Bridge Finalist for the University of Chicago
December 12, 2016
KICP Space Explorer Naa Ashitey (third from the left) is the Quest Bridge Finalist for the University of Chicago
Naa will join the UChicago Class of 2021 with a full four-year scholarship as a pre-med/psychology major. She has been a participant in the KICP Space Explorers Program for the past three years.

QuestBridge is a nonprofit program designed to assist high-achieving, academically motivated students from low-income backgrounds apply to top colleges around the nation. The program features the National College Match, in which students rank and apply to up to eight of QuestBridge's partner colleges. Students who are matched receive a generous four-year, no-loan scholarship.

Department members: Randall H. Landsberg

Mark SubbaRao to become IPS President-Elect
December 12, 2016
Congratulations to Associate, and Adler Planetarium Astronomer, Mark SubbaRao, who will become the President-Elect of the International Planetarium Society on January 1, 2017.

Mark SubbaRao won the recent International Planetarium Society (IPS) election and will assume the role of President-Elect of this prestigious society at the beginning of 2017. In two year's time he will become the President of the IPS for a two year term.

In his candidate's statement, Mark said "I am running for IPS President to help shape the future of the planetarium, this wonderful medium which can inspire the public like nothing else.
... If elected, I will focus on building a more active organization and expanding professional development opportunities. We will support research that demonstrates how effective the planetarium is."

Read the entire statement at the International Planetarium Society website.

Department members: Mark Subbarao

The Diversity Committee, and A Message from the President and Provost
December 2, 2016
The Department's newly formed Diversity Committee: Gourav Khullar, Daniel Holz, Hsiao-Wen Chen, Michael Gladders (Chair), Stephan Meyer, and Daniel Fabrycky.
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The Department's newly formed Diversity Committee has just begun work, and we look forward to productive engagement with you on issues of diversity, inclusion, and department climate. Recent national events have led many in our departmental and broader university community to feel at risk, personally and professionally. We reaffirm the department's commitment to diversity and inclusion, and pledge to continue work to ensure that the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics is a welcoming place to all. Both the President and Provost have released a statement regarding recent events, linked here.

Department members: Hsiao-Wen Chen, Daniel Fabrycky, Michael D. Gladders, Daniel E. Holz, Stephan S. Meyer
Department students: Gourav Khullar

Congratulations to Prof. Jacob Bean!
November 29, 2016
Prof. Jacob Bean
Dear Colleagues,

It is a pleasure to share with you the great news that Jacob Bean has been promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. Please join me in congratulating him!

All the best wishes,

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

Department members: Jacob L. Bean, Angela V. Olinto

Chicago high school students visit to experience "A day in the life of a scientist"
November 15, 2016
Professor Freedman talks about life as a scientist with the students.
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University Professor Wendy Freedman has been invited to be the 2016-2017 Robert A. Pritzker Visiting Scientist in Residence at Chicago's Francis W. Parker School. The program aims to expand science education opportunities at Parker and foster an ongoing dialogue among students and teachers about current issues in science.

As part of her activities, Professor Freedman recently arranged for students to visit the Eckhardt Research Center for a discussion and tour of the KICP and Astronomy & Astrophysics labs and the Pritzker Nanofabrication Facility. Students visited the PNF and the KICP labs of Professor Erik Shirokoff (where Associate Fellow Peter Barry described the lab equipment and activities), and gathered in Professor Stephan Meyer's lab to see a camera that will be used in a balloon-borne experiment to detect cosmic ray showers. Professors Meyer and Freedman also spoke to students about various aspects of their research and their lives as scientists.

Department members: Wendy L. Freedman, Stephan S. Meyer, Erik Shirokoff

SPT-3G Camera Has Shipped to the South Pole
November 1, 2016
The SPT-3G camera is on its way to the South Pole! SPT-3G shipped from Fermilab on Friday October 28 and is expected to arrive at the South Pole on November 12, 2016. In February 2017, SPT-3G will begin a 4-year survey to make new, sensitive measurements of the cosmic microwave background (CMB). You can read more about the SPT-3G camera at "SPT-3G: A Next-Generation Cosmic Microwave Background Polarization Experiment on the South Pole Telescope".

Department members: Bradford A. Benson, John E. Carlstrom, Clarence L. Chang, Thomas Crawford, Stephan S. Meyer, Stephen Padin, Erik Shirokoff
Scientific projects: South Pole Telescope

Richard (Dick) H. Miller, pioneer of computational astrophysics, celebrated his 90th
September 2, 2016
Joan Palmer, Pat Palmer, Dick Miller, and Angela Olinto
Miller's research has dealt with a variety of topics. His early work focused on photometry of galaxies and the interpretation of results in stellar dynamical terms. A shift to n-body computational methods led to the discovery that the gravitational n-body problem is chaotic. In 1966, he proposed the design and construction of a large Michelson Stellar Interferometer with a 1-km baseline. He pioneered n-body computations with large numbers of particles (100 000) and the use of motion pictures to present and study the results. He developed the first n-body computation that showed spiral structure in a disk galaxy model (1970).

Department members: Richard H. Miller, Angela V. Olinto, Patrick E. Palmer

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.

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.

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.

Department members: Dan Hooper

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.

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

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

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.

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

Megan Bedell wins a Harper Dissertation Fellowship
May 22, 2016
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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

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.

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

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

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

"Alexander'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.

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

Life Long Learning program
March 9, 2016
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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.

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
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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."

Department members: Wendy L. Freedman