Broadly speaking, I am interested in novel technological approaches to
outstanding problems in astronomy. I am particularly enthusiastic about the
prospects of characterizing exoplanet populations and their formation phenomena
through direct imaging, interferometry, and astrometry. A large part of my
Ph.D. thesis work has been the development of software to calibrate and
extract data from Project
1640, a combined coronagraph and integral field spectrograph designed for
exoplanet imaging with extreme adaptice optics. Project 1640 is the first
instrument of its kind (soon to be followed by GPI and SPHERE), and presents unusual
data reduction challenges. In 2011, Project 1640 will be combined with the
5-meter Hale Telescope's newly upgraded adaptive optics system, PALM-3000, enabling
it to carry out a high-contrast imaging survey for young, long-period giant
planets in the solar neighborhood.
In the mean time, I have contributed to early scientific results stemming from
observations with P1640 mated to the older PALAO adaptive optics
system. This has included the discovery of Alcor's M-dwarf companion,
confirmed through a novel relative astrometry technique, along with the
characterization of several other low mass ratio binary systems. In addition, I
have helped to orchestrate a survey for substellar companions orbiting nearby
A-type stars. Lastly, I am working on an experiment with non-redundant aperture
mask interferometry, testing the potential advantages of recording
spectrally-resolved fringes, as facilitated by P1640's integral field
Drs. Ben R. Oppenheimer, Anand Sivaramakrishnan, and
Douglas Brenner have mentored me throughout my thesis work. I have also
collaborated closely with Sasha
Hinkley, Ian Parry, Stephanie
Hunt, Justin Crepp, Emily Rice, and Laurent Pueyo.
Summary of Past Research Projects
A fun calculation inspired by discussions with Dave Spiegel, a former classmate
at Columbia. If you are curious for the answer, see my brief report.
Using the Very Large Array, I carried out radio continuum observations of XTE
J1810-197, a member of an exotic class of stellar remnants called magnetars.
These data led to the first discovery of radio pulsations from a magnetar.
Press release here.
The Cordes & Lazio model for the free electron distribution of the Milky Way
includes ad hoc electron "clumps" to reconcile line of sight observables with
basic model predictions (Cordes et al. 2002). While MAGPIS (Multi-Array
Galactic Plane Imaging Survey) is insensitive to emission from individual
diffuse HII regions (n_e ~ 10 cm-3), by investigating the 20 cm maps we are
able to verify their assumption that compact HII regions are not responsible
for the anomolous radio observables. In the process, I created a Galactic Plane Pulsar Atlas which compiles
radio continuum and infrared images centered on the positions of all known
pulsars in the galactic plane. Here is my report (1.2 MB PDF).
Unsatistfied with the trial-and-error/black magic approach to antenna design
that I experienced during my Haystack Observatory internship, for my electrical
engineering Master's thesis I wrote a parallelized genetic algorithm to
optimize fractal-like wire antenna shapes for broadband applications similar to
the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) and Murichson Widefield Array radio
observatories. The results include one particularly promising and oddly-shaped
binary tree dipole. A PDF copy of the thesis is available here (1 MB): Genetic Synthesis of Broadband,
Low-Frequency Antennas, with Applications to Radio Astronomy.
|Genetic Algorithms for Antenna Design||Fall 2004 - Spring 2006|
|Institution: The Cooper Union||Mentor: Toby Cumberbatch (Cooper Union)|
Professor Glennys Farrar (NYU Center for
Cosmology and Particle Physics) first proposed the idea of forming a
large-area cosmic ray detector network with NYC's unbiquitous rooftop water
tanks. For my senior thesis project, I worked with classmates Guang-Yu Zhu,
Brandon Hsieh, and Carl Ericson to devise a method to implement this. My senior
thesis is available here as a PDF file (2 MB): On the Use of a New York City Water Tank
as a Cosmic Ray Detetor. The local public radio station, WNYC, covered
Cooper Union's annual end-of-year student exhibition in May 2004, and dedicated
a few minutes to our cosmic ray detector project, along with several other
projects of my classmates: mp3 (4.6 MB). The New York Schools Cosmic Particle
Telescope project has since expanded to include contributions from a number
of scientists, engineers, and students.
|New York Schools Cosmic Particle Telescope||Fall 2003 - Spring 2004|
|Institution: The Cooper Union||Mentors: Toby Cumberbatch (Cooper Union) and Glennys Farrar (NYU)|
The Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) radio
observatory was in the late design stage during the time of my internship at
the Haystack Observatory. I used field tests and computer simulations to test
the design of a broad-band, wire dipole antenna design for this instrument.
|Low Frequency Antenna Design||Summer 2003|
|Institution: MIT Haystack Observatory REU Program||Mentors: Brian Corey and Eric Kraztenberg|