June 26, 2015

Colloquium Speaker: Jane Rigby

Rigby is a civil servant astrophysicist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, and serves as a deputy project scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope.  Her research interests are galaxy evolution and supermassive black hole growth. Before coming to NASA, Rigby was a Spitzer Fellow and Carnegie Fellow at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, Ca.  She holds M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Astronomy from the University of Arizona, and a B.S. degree in Physics and a B.S. degree in Astronomy & Astrophysics from Penn State.  Jane enjoys sharing the excitement of science with the public, and has given public talks to large audiences at the Huntington Library in Pasadena, Ca. and TEDx in Washington, DC.  She lives in Maryland with her wife and toddler.  Outside of work, she enjoys sailing and gardening.

Colloquium Topic: Galaxy Evolution over Cosmic Time

How did galaxies like the Milky Way evolve over the 13.8 billion years since the Big Bang, grow their central black holes, form stars, and enrich their gas with heavy elements formed in stellar explosions?  This is the exciting field of “galaxy evolution”.  I’ll describe how creatures with lifetimes measured in decades have been able to piece together much of the story of galaxy evolution, and show how I contribute to that effort, using telescopes on remote mountaintops and in space.  I’ll describe how the James Webb Space Telescope, currently under construction for launch in 2018, will transform our view of how galaxies evolved.  I also hope to share my dream for a culture of inclusion in professional astronomy, show data on how far current reality is from that dream, and argue that the current lack of diversity threatens American competitiveness in space science.