My Research

I primarily study astronomical instrumentation, with a focus on the development of infrared detectors. Advised by infrared pioneer Dr. Donald Hall, my current work is to commission and characterize photon-counting near-infrared HgCdTe Avalanche photodiode arrays (APDs). These APDs exhibit unprecedented noise performance, effectively eliminating read noise, suffering very little dark current, and producing no excess statistical noise during amplification. They are naturally suited for applications in adaptive optics and high time-resolution astronomy.

As part of my graduate studies I've also worked with Dr. Jeff Kuhn at IfA Maui to develop a charge-shuffling CCD polarimeter. By making a simple modification to a commercially available detector and incorporating a fast-switching ferroelectric liquid crystal optic, we were able to create a modulated imaging polarimeter. The detector records a pair of images at orthogonal polarizations, with milliseconds separating the exposures. By this technique we can suppress transient noise that would otherwise cause differential error in the polarimetry. When complete, this instrument will be installed at AEOS on Haleakala, Maui.

Before attending UH, I worked for Caltech at the LIGO Hanford Observatory outside of Richland, Washington, where I participated in the eLIGO S6 science run and the early stages of the aLIGO upgrade. LIGO's ongoing mission promises to open a new frontier of gravitational astronomy and compliments conventional extragalactic science.

About Me

Dani Atkinson is a third-year graduate student at the Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawai'i Manoa. She is a 2013 NASA Space Technology Research Fellow.