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Student Spotlight April 2014

Karen Collins

 Karen Collins standing in front of the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico

 

 

 

 

Karen received a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering from Georgia Tech in 1984 and 1992, respectively.  After being employed as an engineer for several years, Karen gave it all up in order to pursue a PhD in Physics and Astronomy at the University of Louisville.

 

 

 

 

 


What brought you to the University of Louisville?

 The curiosity to learn more about Physics and Astronomy.

Specific areas of research (how you chose this research, why it interested you):

I have had a life-long interest in astrophysics and general relatively. After practicing in the electrical engineering field for nearly 20 years, I had the chance to pursue a second career in Astrophysics at UofL.  At the time I was starting work on my PhD, my research adviser, John Kielkopf, acquired a telescope for the department that is perfectly sized to search for exoplanets. I haven’t looked back since. What could be more fun than searching for and characterizing planets!

How would you describe your area of study/ specific research to your grandmother?

 We search for and characterize planets outside of our solar system. Our instrumentation is capable of detecting a planet that crosses the face of its host star from our perspective here on earth. We are able to measure the size and mass of the planet from which we can calculate its average density, which suggests whether the planet is mostly made of rocky materials, water, or gas. For planets that orbit bright stars, we can even measure the makeup of the planet’s atmosphere.

What made you go into this field of study?

 Just 20 years ago, we were not aware of any planets outside our own solar system. Since then, the field has exploded and astronomers have discovered several hundred “extra-solar planets”. Joining the competitive group of astronomers that do extra-solar planet research is a challenge, but I can’t think of anything more rewarding.

How do you think this advanced degree will change your role in society?

 Hopefully, in some small way, I can help humanity understand the entirety of the universe we live in. More specifically, I hope to help us to determine whether the development of life was a special one-time event on Earth, or if life is as common throughout the universe as it is here on Earth.

Long term goals/ aspirations:

 Continued work in the astrophysics field and to be among the first human explorers on Mars!

What accomplishment, academic or otherwise, are you most proud of?

 Playing a major role in the discovery of the Saturn mass extra-solar planet KELT-6b.

What has been your favorite part of the graduate school experience at UofL?

 Having the pleasure of working under the leadership of my excellent research adviser, Dr. John Kielkopf.

Family life:

I love my doggies!

Awards, honors, publications:

 Awards:

2013, 2012 - The William Marshall Bullitt Award in Astronomy

 Publications: See full citations below. 

1. Spitzer And Z’ Secondary Eclipse Observations Of The Highly Irradiated Transiting Brown Dwarf KELT-1B.

2. KELT-6b: A P similar to 7.9 Day Hot Saturn Transiting A Metal-Poor Star With A Long-Period Companion.

3. KELT-3b: A Hot Jupiter Transiting A V=9.8 Late-F Star.

4. KELT-1b: A Strongly Irradiated, Highly Inflated, Short Period, 27 Jupiter-Mass Companion Transiting A Mid-F Star. 

5. ELT-2Ab: A Hot Jupiter Transiting The Bright (V=8.77) Primary Star Of A Binary System.

6. Locating the Accretion Footprint on a Herbig Ae Star: Mwc 480

7. Revealing the Structure of a Pre-Transitional Disk: The Case of the Herbig F Star Sao 206462 (Hd 135344b).

8. Hd 100453: A Link between Gas-Rich Protoplanetary Disks and Gas-Poor Debris Disks.

9. The disk and environment of a young Vega analog: HD 169142

Fun Facts

 
A talent you have always wanted:
   I’m not sure if this is a talent, but I would like to be able to live without my body requiring sleep!

Favorite  Book: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Favorite quote:
"Beam me up, Scotty"

Role Model:  Neil Armstrong and Albert Einstein

Favorite Vacation Destination:   Kauai, Hawaii

If you weren’t in graduate school, what would you be doing now? Spending more time training for my upcoming attempt at a 100 mile ultra-marathon foot race.

 

 Publications:

 Beatty TG, Collins KA, Forthney J, Knutson H, Gaudi BS, et al. 2014. Spitzer And Z’ Secondary Eclipse Observations Of The Highly Irradiated Transiting Brown Dwarf KELT-1B.  Astrophysical Journal 783

Collins KA, Eastman JD, Beatty TG, Siverd RJ, Gaudi BS, et al. 2014. KELT-6b: A P similar to 7.9 Day Hot Saturn Transiting A Metal-Poor Star With A Long-Period Companion. Astronomical Journal 147

Pepper J, Siverd RJ, Beatty TG, Gaudi BS, Stassun KG, et al. 2013. KELT-3b: A Hot Jupiter Transiting A V=9.8 Late-F Star. Astrophysical Journal 773

Siverd RJ, Beatty TG, Pepper J, Eastman JD, Collins K, et al. 2012. KELT-1b: A Strongly Irradiated, Highly Inflated, Short Period, 27 Jupiter-Mass Companion Transiting A Mid-F Star. Astrophysical Journal 761

Beatty TG, Pepper J, Siverd RJ, Eastman JD, Bieryla A, et al. 2012. KELT-2Ab: A Hot Jupiter Transiting The Bright (V=8.77) Primary Star Of A Binary System. Astrophysical Journal Letters 756

Grady CA, Hamaguchi K, Schneider G, Stecklum B, Woodgate BE, et al. 2010. Locating the Accretion Footprint on a Herbig Ae Star: Mwc 480. Astrophysical Journal 719: 1565-81

Collins KA, Grady CA, Hamaguchi K, Wisniewski JP, Brittain S, et al. 2009. Hd 100453: A Link between Gas-Rich Protoplanetary Disks and Gas-Poor Debris Disks. Astrophysical Journal 697: 557-72

Grady CA, Schneider G, Sitko ML, Williger GM, Hamaguchi K, et al. 2009. Revealing the Structure of a Pre-Transitional Disk: The Case of the Herbig F Star Sao 206462 (Hd 135344b). Astrophysical Journal 699: 1822-42

Collins KA. 2008. HD 100453: AN EVOLUTIONARY LINK BETWEEN PROTOPLANETARY DISKS AND DEBRIS DISKS.  ProQuest Dissertations and Theses; Thesis (PhD) - University of Louisville

Grady CA, Schneider G, Hamaguchi K, Sitko ML, Carpenter WJ, et al. 2007. The disk and environment of a young Vega analog: HD 169142. Astrophysical Journal 665: 1391-406

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