Damped Lyman alpha Systems (DLAs): The most well-understood, enigmatic galaxies
Regina Jorgenson

Damped Lyman alpha Systems (DLAs) are observed as absorption features in the lines of sight toward background, high redshift quasars and defined as clouds of neutral gas having N(HI) >= 2x10^20 cm^-2. DLAs dominate the neutral gas content of the Universe between z=[0,5] and are believed to be the progenitors of modern spiral galaxies. However, despite 25 years of study and over 1000 DLAs discovered, thanks to the SDSS survey, the true nature of these important reservoirs of neutral gas remains elusive. I will discuss recent efforts to determine the physical conditions in DLAs via absorption line physics as well as complimentary attempts to detect the DLA host galaxies in emission by taking advantage of the Keck/OSIRIS IFU and LGSAO. In addition, I will discuss recent work using the most metal-poor DLAs as probes of early nucleosynthesis.