PI Public Lecture Series:
Title: A New Era in Astronomy: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope
Abstract: The Hubble Space Telescope has completely revolutionized our understanding of the universe, and has become a beloved icon of popular culture. As revolutionary as Hubble has been, we have pushed it to its scientific limits in many ways. Hubble’s successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, has been in the works for almost two decades and is scheduled to launch in late 2018. It will be 100 times more powerful than Hubble. In her Perimeter Public Lecture, Dr. Amber Straughn will provide an update on the progress of building the world’s largest-yet space telescope, and will give an overview of the astronomical questions we hope to answer with Webb. These questions get to the heart of what it means to be human: Where did we come from? How did we get here? Are we alone?
Biography: Dr. Amber Straughn is an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, and is a member of the James Webb Space Telescope Project Science Team. She also serves as the Associate Director of the Astrophysics Science Division.
Amber grew up in the small farming town of Bee Branch, Arkansas where her fascination with astronomy began under beautifully dark, rural skies. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Physics at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in 2002, and completed her M.S. and Ph.D. in Physics at Arizona State University in 2008. She has been involved in NASA programs since her undergrad years, beginning with flying an experiment on NASA’s microgravity KC-135 plane (the “Vomit Comet”) in 2001.
Amber is interested in answering questions about our universe that relate to how galaxies change over time: specifically, how important are galaxy interactions in the overall picture of how galaxies grow, and how do supermassive black holes, star formation, and gas inflows and outflows affect galaxy evolution over cosmic time? These questions are central to NASA’s long-term goal of discovering how the universe works and exploring how it began and evolved.
In addition to research, Amber’s role with the James Webb Space Telescope science team involves working with science communications activities. She frequently speaks at schools, astronomy clubs, museums, and research societies nationwide. Amber has done numerous live television interviews and media features for NASA, and has appeared on The Discovery Channel, The Science Channel, PBS NOVA, NatGeo, BBC, the History Channel, Spike TV, and in the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon's "Hubble Gotchu" segment.
Amber lives in Glenn Dale, MD, with her husband Matt and her two Great Danes and one cat. Her love of all things air and space prompted her to become a pilot; she earned her private pilot's license in early 2013 and owns a Cessna 182. She has been an active yoga practitioner since grad school, and teaches a volunteer yoga class weekly. Amber is also an avid college football fan.
Keep up with Amber on Twitter: @astraughnomer and her website: http://www.amberstraughn.com