Research Interests:I am interested in high-mass star and cluster formation, galactic centers, stellar dynamics, and black holes. I study these topics using high-angular resolution infrared imaging and spectroscopy, adaptive optics, and astrometry.
I use laser-guide star adaptive optics to obtain high-precision astrometry (~0.2 mas precision) and spectroscopy measurements on star formation in extreme environments such as at the cores of young massive star clusters and at the Galactic center. Such clusters are ideal targets for understanding how environment may influence the star formation process.
I am also working on spatially resolved kinematics (2D) of the nucleus of the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), which also shows an unusual population of young stars around the supermassive black hole. Unlike our own Galactic Center, M31 does not have a large amount of molecular material in its nucleus so star formation is even more of a mystery.
I conducted my Ph.D. work with Prof. Andrea Ghez on studies of star formation at the Galactic Center. The center of the Milky Way harbors a supermassive black hole (SBH) and a cluster of apparently young, massive stars. The presence of the SBH and the harsh surrounding environment make the origin of these young, massive stars something of a puzzle. I was primarily focused on looking for observational clues to the origins of these young stars. For more information, see
As an undergraduate at MIT, I worked with Prof. Victoria Kaspi studying Anomalous X-ray Pulsars using Rossi XTE and Gamma-Ray Pulsars using EGRET. Here are a few publications (under my maiden name: Lackey).
Education and Outreach
I am a contributing member and co-founder of the AstroBetter website (blog and wiki). The purpose of this site is to build a collective knowledge base of best practices and tools for professional astronomers and astronomers in training.
For a complete description of my education and outreach experience; please see my CV.