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Who is this guy?

I'm an astronomy graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I work with Christy Tremonti. You can also find me on Twitter (@zpacefromspace), where I talk about mostly science.

Recent blog posts

Research

My primary academic interest lies in the formation and evolution of late-type (spiral) galaxies in the local universe. I'm currently involved with the SDSS-IV MaNGA survey, working on finding measures of total gas content. Eventually, this will be extended to the approximately 10,000 galaxies that MaNGA will cover. I also have done some work with SparsePak (the integral field unit on the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope at Kitt Peak).

Other Interests

Some other things I do, more or less on the side

Machine Learning & Pattern Recognition

Like any scientist, I like to know what nature is doing, so I construct models of how I think the universe behaves, and then try to discover whether my observations fit that model. In the past, the data was the limiting factor (and indeed, people traded both their financial resources and their personal expertise for access to good data). Nowadays, though, we (I mean "we" as astronomers, but you could equally replace it with "doctors" or "actuaries" or "businessmen") have more data than we know what to do with, and we instead barter our expertise for someone else's expertise. Working with high-dimension and high-volume data sets (and data streams, in many cases) necessitates an intelligent and efficient approach to computing. I try to bring those best practices to my own work, and so I welcome comments, criticisms, and raised eyebrows.

Education

Science is cool, and it's extremely rewarding to expose non-scientists of all ages to the work I do every day. Every few weekends in the summer and fall, a colleague and I pack up and go to a Wisconsin State Park to give one of many Universe in the Park programs. UitP, which my former advisor Eric Wilcots administers, has been running for many years, and is still growing. A UitP program is some people's first exposure to astronomy, and they are truly amazed by the stunning array of objects visible from practically their back yard.

I also do some Education & Public Outreach work for the Sloan Digital Sky Surveys, writing some neat interactive webpages for the SDSS Plate Distribution project and maintaining MaNGA content on the SDSS Blog.

Space Exploration

I am a proud member of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, a multi-disciplinary student and young professional organization dedicated to advancing humanity' reach into the cosmos. I currently serve as the Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors, in which capacity I administer the Endowment, take the lead on large corporate outreach initiatives, and run engineering competitions like the Satellites Around Mars Research and Engineering Competition, which is an opportunity for early undergrads to design a circum-Martian satellite network. I was a member of UB-SEDS during my undergrad years at the University at Buffalo and as chapter representative (2010-2012), I contributed to SEDS-USA's Bylaws (Elections and Public Advocacy policies). I also was part of the SpaceVision 2012 conference team. From 2012 until 2014, I served as SEDS-USA Development Manager, taking charge of many aspects of SEDS-USA's corporate & partner outreach efforts, especially as they pertain to the yearly SEDS SpaceVision conference.

Music

In my infrequent spare time, I play the fiddle, in a variety of styles: most often, bluegrass, Cape Breton, and Scottish, but also occasionally Appalchian and Scandinavian. I also can play the trombone and a little piano. I value the artistic disciplines as complementary to the scientific, and I believe that young people interested in both should not cave to institutional and societal pressures to pick just one to pursue at an early age.