This week we’re welcoming Dr Jillian M Scudder (@Jillian_Scudder) an Assistant Professor at Oberlin College in Ohio. Jillian’s PhD focused on the physics of galaxy collisions in the local universe (through both optical and radio observations), and during her postdoc at the University of Sussex, she expanded her research to more distant galaxies and a broader spectrum of wavelengths. She’s also created her own blog in order to answer questions about space: Astroquizzical. She is also a published author, with her first book, Astroquizzical: a curious journey through our cosmic family tree, published by Icon Books and out now in hardback.
We asked Jillian to talk about her work and what makes her tick!
So Jillian… what do you study?
I study the interactions between galaxies – so what happens to a galaxy when two of them smash into each other.
This is also in the Milky Way’s future, as we’re on a collision course with the Andromeda galaxy in the next 3-5 billion years.
In particular I am interested in figuring out what happens to a galaxy’s formation of new stars during this time, which turns out to be extremely variable from one galaxy to another! So why should that be? What has to be in place to trigger really intense starbursts? I use mostly publicly available survey data like the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to sift through a large number of galaxies to find the ones I’m interested in, so on a daily level my science looks a lot like data science.
Why should the general public be interested in your work?
It’s really cool! I think that’s the most honest answer – it’s neat stuff.
Secondly, a lot of the science I do is paid for at least in part by the taxpayers, so it’s their science also.
Do you do anything cool on the side?
I also write a Q&A blog, Astroquizzical, where I have folks send in their questions about space, and I will do my best to answer them. This has been a spare-time project of mine for six years now, and it’s been really fun to operate. Last year a book based on the blog came out, which has been really exciting. I fold origami cranes as presents for folks – I’m up to my sixth set of 1000!
And your perfect day off??
A good book, a leisurely wander outside/through funky shops, chats with friends, and dog cuddles!
Thanks Jillian and Welcome to RealScientists!