She’s an Astronomer: Carie Cardamone

Carie Cardamone

Carie Cardamone

Carie Cardamone is a graduate student in Astronomy at Yale University currently finishing up her PhD thesis. Her research focuses on the properties of distant Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) and their host galaxies. By studying these objects she intends to further our understanding of how the growth of galaxies is tied to the growth of their central black holes. Her most recent paper, “Galaxy Zoo Green Peas: Discovery of A Class of Compact Extremely Star-Forming Galaxies,” focuses on an exciting result from the Galaxy Zoo project. (You can read about the writing of this paper in Carie’s blog post: The Story of the Peas; and check out Carie’s other blog posts by clicking on the “Carie” category to the right)

Originally from Rochester, NY, Carie attended Wellesley Financial Trading School (where she graduate with a double major in Mathematics and Astronomy), and obtained a Masters degree in Astronomy from Wesleyan University before starting her current PhD program at Yale. As an undergraduate Carie participated in several astronomy research projects. These projects include studying the small moons of Saturn, searching for extra-solar planets and studying the million degree gas around hot stars. Carie’s masters thesis at Wesleyan University, with Ed Moran, used local dust-obscured AGN to understand the properties of distant AGN. For her PhD thesis, Carie is working with Pieter van Dokkum and Meg Urry directly studying the build up of distant galaxies and AGN in a deep multi-wavelength survey. She also enjoys studying the Peas, an exciting new class of extreme star forming galaxies, first identified by Galaxy Zoo volunteers. Carie’s paper on the peas was recently accepted, and appears this morning on the open access e-print ArXiV as astroph/0907.4155

Carie has 2 cats Chandra & Swift, both of whom are named after high energy X-ray Satellites (The Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Mission). Her family is still in Upstate New York, where she often visits the family dogs Einstein, named after the Einstein Observatory also known as HEAO-2 (High Energy Astrophysics Observatory 2), and Newton, named after the European X-ray satellite XMM-Newton. In her spare time she enjoys reading literature, playing board games and watching old movies. She also enjoys volunteering at the local planetarium & observatory at Yale University.

  • How did you first hear about Galaxy Zoo?

Kevin Schawinski, one of the Principal Investigators of Galaxy Zoo, had just arrived at Yale University, and was eager to start up collaborations with those of us working here. He was excited about the Galaxy Zoo users’ discovery of the Peas and told me about the project. The Peas were compact emission line galaxies that appeared green in the three-color SDSS images. At this point it was unclear whether the emission lines were caused by episodes of star formation or if these galaxies harbored Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN). My own area of research focused on star formation in galaxies hosting AGN, so I was very excited by this new class of galaxies. I’d long been involved in public outreach, talking to local school groups and visitors to the Yale Observatory and Planetarium, so the idea of collaborating with citizen scientists was also quite attractive. I started the project last July and it’s been a wonderful experience working with the public overall and the galaxy zoo science team which have been so helpful.

  • What has been your main involvement in the Galaxy Zoo project?

My main involvement thus far has been following up on the Peas. I worked with the Galaxy Zoo volunteers who actively searched for these objects and we were able to take a closer look at their spectral properties. Many of the scientists involved on the GZ team helped me with this analysis, and we were able to determine that the nature of these galaxies was largely star forming. In fact, the Peas are extreme examples of compact star forming galaxies, undergoing processes very similar to those seen in galaxies in the early universe. This is particularly exciting, because if we want to better understand how galaxies form and evolve over cosmic time, we need to understand how they grew at the earliest times.

The Peas are much closer to us, and can be studied in far greater detail than galaxies in the very early universe and therefore provide a ‘local laboratory’ in which we can study extreme star formation episodes in galaxies.

  • How/when did you first get interested in Astronomy?

In college, we were required to take a science class to fulfill a distribution requirement. I chose astronomy because I thought it might be fun, and we wouldn’t be required to handle chemicals. I tend to spill things! I was blown away by how much I loved Astronomy. I studied planets and archeoastronomy (the history of human understanding of astronomy) but when we got to Cosmology, learning about the history of the universe, I was fascinated by how our understanding of the universe is growing and changing as new discoveries are uncovered each year. I finished with the mathematics major and a liberal arts study of astronomy, continued on to Wesleyan University to earn a masters in astronomy, and then to Yale, where I am currently finishing up my PhD.

  • What (if any) do you think are the main barriers to women’s involvement in Astronomy?

I’ve never personally felt any discrimination as a female Astronomer. Although I have seen such things in academia, astronomers work in an enormously supportive environment. In my opinion, there are two barriers to a woman becoming an astrophysicist.

The first is very simple: it may never occur to her to study Astronomy. She has to chose take the coursework and show the initiative. I think once a woman has indicated interest in becoming an astronomer, the outpouring of support is overwhelming.
At Wellesley college, I had the encouragement of my professors and other alumnae in the field of Astronomy who were happy to share their experiences with me. I’ve experienced the same encouragement and support at Wesleyan and at Yale. There is never any question that a woman’s work is held in equal regard to that of her male peers.

The second barrier to a woman becoming an astrophysicist comes much later as she is finishing up graduate school and starting her career. An astronomer must spend much of her 20s and 30s moving from institution to institution, completing a graduate degree and a couple of postdoctoral positions before finding a permanent position. If you’re married and thinking about starting a family, it can be very difficult to be this mobile. Additionally, there are numerous problems to consider if both partners are academics, a common situation for female astronomers.

  • Do you have any particular role models in Astronomy?

I have numerous role models in Astronomy. Currently I work with Meg Urry who is a wonderfully supportive advisor and an outstanding example of what a woman can achieve in the field of astronomy. I also admire others here at Yale including Priya Natarajan, a innovative scientist who studies cosmology and a gifted mentor in her own right. Ed Moran, with whom I worked at Wesleyan University, is also a talented teacher and scientist who comes up with new and creative ways to approach scientific questions.

  • What do you think is the most interesting astronomical question Galaxy Zoo will help to solve?

Galaxy Zoo will be able to shed new light on the role galaxy morphology, or shape, plays in galaxy evolution. Also, the attention to detail a million amateur astronomers can pay allows them to uncover new and curious objects like the ‘Peas’. Who knows what else might be uncovered by these dedicated volunteers!

This post is part of the ongoing She’s an Astronomer series on the Galaxy Zoo Blog is support of the IYA2009 cornerstone project of the same name (She’s an Astronomer). We are now listed on the She’s an Astronomer website in their Profiles.

This is the fourth post of the series. So far we have interviewed

  • May 1st 2009: Hanny Van Arkel (Galaxy Zoo volunteer and finder of Hanny’s Voorwerp).
  • June 1st 2009: Dr. Vardha Nicola Bennert (researcher at UCSB involved in Hanny’s Voorwerp followup and the “peas” project)
  • July 1st 2009: Alice Sheppard (Galaxy Zoo volunteer and forum moderator)

Still to come in the series – more Galaxy Zoo volunteers and researchers, including original team member Dr. Kate Land, forum moderator Gemma Coughlin and many others.

About karenlmasters

Professor of Astronomy and Physics at Haverford College, USA. Principle Investigator for Galaxy Zoo. Spokesperson for fourth phase of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Enjoys using radio telescopes. Busy having fun with astronomy!

4 responses to “She’s an Astronomer: Carie Cardamone”

  1. Alice says :

    Fantastic interview, well done Carie! And glad to have another Pea enthusiast on the project. I hope we’ll find more new objects too! 🙂

  2. elizatbeth says :

    Wonderful interview Carie. So glad you took up the challenge to work on the peas project.

  3. Richard Nowell says :

    An outstanding astronomer with an extraordinary talent for hard work and getting it right! I hope this is the start of a wonderful career for an awesome scientist, prepared to get involved with the general public. Fantastic! The best there is!

  4. zeus2007 says :

    All the best.

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