B.A. Physics, B.S. Astronomy (Class of 2008)
UH Astrophysics Club (also joined SACNAS and AAAS while at UHH; worked for UHH Board of Student Publications as well)
Where you are now and what you're doing:
I submitted my PhD thesis at the University of New South Wales in Sydney Australia in September 2015.
Areas of specialty:
I work primarily on the characterisation of exoplanets. I compare models to space telescope data to learn about what their atmospheres are like. I'm also involved with polarimetric observations of exoplanet systems and protoplanetary disks with the most sensitive visible light polarimeter in the world (HIPPI). I did a bit of work on deuterium levels in the atmosphere of Uranus during my PhD as well. In general I'm interested in finding out what exoplanets are like, where there might be life, and how planets, stars and brown dwarfs form.
Places you have worked, interned or traveled to for your career:
I live in Sydney, have traveled all over Australia and been lucky enough to get to travel around the US and Europe quite a bit for conferences.
I grew up on an island near Seattle and got into astronomy after seeing the movie "Contact" when I was 12 years old. I read every astronomy book I could find in our little library. I first attended Northern Arizona University but transferred to UH Hilo after my second year. I took up summer internship opportunities (UH Hilo is a great place for that!) working for the IfA Hilo, IfA Maui, Gemini North, and for Prof. Takamiya while there on a really broad range of topics (AO, infrared cryogenics, star forming regions, etc.). After undergrad I spent some time outside of the field until I got so incredibly bored not doing astronomy that I started a PhD in Australia on exoplanet characterisation.
What attracted you to UH Hilo Physics & Astronomy?
I really liked having small classes. The professors and lecturers at UH Hilo gave really challenging work and were very available to us as students. UH Hilo undergrads are in a pretty unusual situation in not having a lot of post docs around and having extra access to world-class telescopes. I was able to work with amazing research groups and do things such as give lectures as an undergrad. I wanted to attend UH Hilo because it was a great astronomy program at a uni I could afford. I found that UH Hilo attracted a lot of fun, driven and adventurous people in both the student body and faculty.
Advice for prospective/current students of UH Hilo Physics & Astronomy:
Three things: 1. Talk to your professors (get homework help, ask about projects, tell them about your crazy ideas), 2. take up the research opportunities provided to you (look to your advisor, ask other students, look into the Akamai program, etc.), 3. know it's okay in academia to ask people about money (you can talk about jobs, research funding, how to make grad school affordable, how to attend a conference you can't afford... it's not taboo in this setting).
Email address: k.bott [at symbol] unsw.edu.au
Lucyna Kedziora-Chudczer and myself with our polarimeter, HIPPI, at the Anglo-Australian Telescope