Meet an Astronomer

Paths to Careers in Astrophysics

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Illustration: NASA/CXC/K.DiVona

Our blogger today is Dr. Wallace Tucker, who has worked on the Chandra project since its inception and has been involved with high-energy astrophysics for several decades. In one of his many roles, Wallace has served as the Chandra Science Spokesperson, helping non-experts understand and enjoy the amazing discoveries Chandra makes. He is the author of several popular books including one published by Smithsonian Books.

How did you get to be an astrophysicist working with the Chandra X-ray Observatory?

This is a question that almost all of us who work with Chandra get asked at one point or another. Apart from cocktail party conversation — not that astrophysicists go to that many cocktail parties, in my experience — the answer is relevant in terms of ongoing efforts to increase the number of young people seeking careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

And, on the principle that "none of us is as smart as all of us," it is important for maximizing the scientific return of Chandra to get as many people involved as possible. Think about it: some of the bright young minds working on Chandra data today were in elementary school when Chandra was launched!

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Meet an Astronomer: Paul Green (Part I)


Paul Green is an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. His scientific research includes the study of quasars and carbon stars. He pursues these topics while working in Chandra's Director's Office, helping to ensure that the science of the telescope gets done smoothly. When he's not doing all of these things, Paul is also known to play a mean bass guitar.

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How to stumble into a PhD project, and how it can follow you

Teddy Cheung
Teddy Cheung, Credit: Craig Walker

We are delighted to welcome Teddy Cheung, from the National Academy of Sciences, and resident at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC, to give a guest blog post today. Teddy is first author of a paper describing the discovery of the most distant X-ray jet detected to date. Here, he explains some of the background story behind this discovery.

When I started graduate school in 1999 at Brandeis University, exciting discoveries were being made down the road in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with the then newly launched Chandra X-ray Observatory. The first Chandra image unexpectedly revealed a bright X-ray jet from a distant quasar ( and the research groups at SAO and MIT were puzzling over it. But it took me leaving Boston to find my eventual connection.

I spent the summer of 2000 at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, wanting to learn something entirely new and took on a project in Meg Urry's group studying the galaxies of BL Lac objects (a type of cousin to the quasars) using ground-based near-infrared data. Coincidentally, I shared an office with another graduate student working with Dr. Urry for the summer, Fabrizio Tavecchio from Italy, and they were at that time puzzling over the same Chandra jet detection. Little did I appreciate at the time, that this visit to Baltimore would lead back to my eventual PhD project at Brandeis on the Chandra quasar jets.

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Meet An Astronomer: Pat Slane


Pat Slane, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, is a very busy guy. In addition to being the head of Chandra's Mission Planning group, he also conducts his own independent research into the study of supernova remnants and neutron stars (the aftermath of the massive stars that have exploded.) He also takes the time to participate in outreach, including heading up the "Stop for Science" project. Despite his hectic schedule, Pat sat down with the Chandra blog to discuss how he got where he is today in his career.

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Meet An Astronomy Intern: Jessica Brodsky


In this latest video blog, we sit down with Jessica Brodsky. Jessica is a student from Brown University who spent part of her summer doing detective work on the archive of Chandra images. Her task was to back fill the metadata into the Chandra images on From her feedback, it was a useful experience, as Jessica's interests lie in digital assets management and web development. (We also heard that Jessica plans to take an astronomy course at Brown this year - awesome!).

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Meet an Astronomer: Joseph DePasquale


In this installment of our Meet An Astronomer video blog, we sit down with Joseph DePasquale. Joe is the Chandra science image processor who works hard to create the astronomy images that appear in press releases, on our web site, in print materials, and elsewhere. We think he has a pretty cool job, with a great combination of science and art.

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Meet An Astronomer: Julia Lee


Back by popular demand is our video blog series, Meet An Astronomer
Julia Lee is an associate professor in the astronomy department at Harvard. We caught up with Julia at a moment when she wasn't busy with her regular duties of running a research lab, teaching students, and everything else that a full-time position at a university like Harvard entails. Julia sat down with our "Meet an Astronomer" crew to explain how various choices she made led to her current career.

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Meet an Astronomer: Leisa Townsley


Leisa Townsley has long been a favorite of the Chandra team. Not only does she do really interesting science, she creates some truly spectacular images that we get to share with the public. Leisa is a Senior Scientist at Penn State University. Keep your eyes open for some more gorgeous Chandra images from Leisa and her colleagues, as well as new science results, in the not-so-distant future.

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Meet an Astronomer: Carles Badenes


We've spent a lot of time lately talking about the past 10 years. This has been for an excellent reason, of course: the observatory and the scientists that use it have just done so many great things.

But we don't want to spend too much energy looking back, because there are so many exciting things are still very much in front of us. We recently sat down with some of the best and brightest scientists who are using Chandra and will take the science into its next decade of discovery. We'll share some of those conversations with you here. We hope you sense, like we do, that the best may yet to come.

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Meet an Astronomer: Eli Bressert


In this latest installment of our series, we sit down with Eli Bressert. Eli is responsible for making the Chandra images for the public that appear in press releases, on the website, in posters, etc. While we won't get into the technical details of how that gets done in this video blog, we did want to point out that this an important -- if lesser known -- job in the world of space science.

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