NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center
Growing up near the dark sky beaches on the Alabama coast, I developed a love of the night sky from a very early age that I never lost. My parents gave me a little refracting telescope when I was 10, and even into my teen years, I would spend hours on a beach house deck finding nebula and galaxies. I knew I wanted to be an astrophysicist and decided to pursue degrees in physics in order to have a strong educational foundation. My undergraduate degree was earned from the University of South Alabama in Mobile during which I participated in the Research Experience for Undergrate (REU) program at the University of Wyoming (UW) in Laramie. That experience was instrumental in shaping my path forward as it gave me my first hands-on contact with a bonafide observatory.
I bolted back to the mountain west after receiving my B.S., and earned my M.S. in physics and astronomy at UW by chasing after Gamma Ray Burst afterglows with the university's two observatories. The Rockies are a special place for me, and despite all of my travels around the world, Vedauwoo is still my favorite location on earth with its pine tree-juniper scent, towering boulders, and unending clear skies. I spent many a crisp night there in a sleeping bag watching the Milky Way spin.
In 2005, I headed further north to beautiful Bozeman, Montana where I became emersed in the world of solar physics at Montana State University and haven't looked back. There really aren’t many things more rewarding than studying a star that touches your planet. I completed my Ph.D. work in 2010 while learning to operate a solar satellite instrument (the X-Ray Telescope on Hinode). I then continued my thesis work at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland as a NASA Post-doctoral Fellow before landing my current position as a NASA civil servant at Marshall Space Flight Center. I now serve as the US Project Scientist for the Hinode mission and help develop new solar instrumentation for sounding rocket experiments. My research interests center around solar flares using high energy instrumentation to understand the mechanics behind how the magnetic field rapidly releases enormous amounts of energy.
Such is the circle of life, I ended up back in Alabama (although at the opposite end). Appalachia has its own special appeal as well. For one, there are a lot more plants...and bugs! In the meantime, I have somehow managed to surround myself with a wonderful gaggle of children (3 girls and a boy) with a spouse who shares the same passion for learning about how the universe works. But I stick mostly to the solar system while he deals with the rest of it using gravitational waves and general relativity.