In this series of posts, we sit down with a few of the keynote speakers of the 231st AAS meeting to learn more about them and their research. You can see a full schedule of their talks here!
From the smallest stars to the largest galaxies, the evolution of our universe is interconnected. Charlie Conroy’s research explores this linkage through both observations and theoretical models.
Conroy is a professor of Astronomy at the Harvard University. He was awarded this year’s Helen B. Warner prize for his work in modeling stellar populations and galaxy evolution.
From the start of his college career, Conroy knew he wanted to become a professional astronomer. His first research experience was in his sophomore year with Marc Davis, working with spectra from the DEEP2 survey and searching through thousands of spectra to verify that an automated code correctly identified redshifts! Conroy continued to follow his interest in galaxies while in graduate school at Princeton, but he has since found that his research interests have “gone down in scale” as he has realized that to best understand galaxy evolution, we must understand stellar evolution.
Today, Conroy uses both observations and modeling techniques to uncover the intertwined story of stellar and galactic evolution. His research spans from nearby galactic stars, to far away galaxies which we see as small specks in the cosmos. Having this range of observations and modeling tools allows Conroy and his group to answer questions, for example, about the evolution of the most massive stars within the Milky Way. And by studying nearby stars in detail, we can better understand galaxies at higher redshifts whose light is dominated by these massive stars.
With such a vast spread of interests, there is a wealth of unanswered questions to explore. However, Conroy also points out that in most subfields, “even a lot of the basic questions are completely unknown…or [it’s] not even agreed upon what the questions should be.” He encourages young researchers to occasionally step back from the small details of daily research and remember that there is so much left to explore and answer. You can hear more about Conroy’s expansive research during his talk entitled “The Evolution of Stars & Galaxies”at 3:40 PM on Thursday, 11th January at #AAS231!