Keck Visiting Scholar Program

The Keck Visiting Scholar Program is designed to connect early career scientists to the technology, operation and science of the W. M. Keck Observatory (Keck Observatory). The program is aimed at graduate students and post-docs seeking to enhance their careers through an observatory hands-on experience working directly with a Keck Observatory scientist. Although this is an unpaid internship, funding will be provided to successful candidates to cover travel and accommodation expenses for 4-12 weeks. A full program description can be found here.

A description of the projects funded with our scholarships in 2018 can be found here.

Applications are currently being accepted until April 5th 2019. To apply for the program, go to: Application Form. The application must include: a one-page description of the research and/or technical work the scholar is interested in working on; a one-page letter of recommendation from the scholar’s advisor and/or supervisor; and a selection of the Keck Scientist(s) the scholar is interested in working with.

Keck Observatory gratefully acknowledges the Keck Visiting Scholars Program sponsors Roy and Frances Simperman and major contributors: the M. R. and Evelyn Hudson Foundation; the W. M. Keck Foundation; the Edge of Space Inc.; Tom Blackburn; John and Ann Broadbent; Bent and Candee Forbes; Carl and Marsha Hewitt; Doug Johnson and Valerie Gordon-Johnson; Andy and Worth Ludwick; Tom McIntyre; and Jeff Steele and Rebecca Miller Steele.

Staff Astronomers

Dr. Carlos Alvarez graduated in Solid State Physics from the Universidad del Pais Vasco (Spain) (1988 – 1994) and in Astrophysics from the Universidad de La Laguna (Spain) (1996 – 1998). I did the last year of my Astrophysics degree (1997 – 1998) as an international student at the Imperial College of London (United Kingdom). I received my PhD from the University of Leeds (United Kingdom) (1998 – 2002) with a Thesis on Outflows from Massive Young Stellar Objects. I worked as apost-doctoral researcher at the Max Plank Institut für Astronomie in Heidelberg (Germany) (2002 – 2004) on high spatial resolution observations of massive star forming regions. From 2006 to 2015, I worked as a Support Astronomer with the 10-meter Gran Telescopio Canarias at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory in La Palma (Canary Islands, Spain). Since September 2015 I am working as a Staff Astronomer with the W. M. Keck Observatory. During my professional career I have contributed to scientific publications in fields ranging from massive star formation to active galactic nuclei, sub-stellar objects, and comets and asteroids. I have an interest in a wide range of topics in Astrophysics, but in recent years I have become particularly interested in the study of Solar System objects.

Randy Campbell is the Science Operations Lead Astronomer at the W. M. Keck Observatory , where is has been part of the staff for over 23 years. Randy leads a team of scientists and operators that provide visiting astronomers with observing support for using the Keck telescopes. He has technical expertise in developing and maintaining the instrumentation of the observatory, in particular the laser guide star adaptive optics (LGSAO) used to remove image blur caused by atmospheric turbulence. LGSAO is a powerful technique that greatly improves image quality to realize the full potential of the world’s largest telescope.  Randy’s research is primarily in the study of classical novae, a type of cataclysmic variable star. This research involves capturing the event at time the ejecta of these exploding stars enter the nubulous stage in order to better understand the astrophysical processes that power the nova phenomenon.  The nebulae are expanding at high velocities and the timing of the observations is vital since they are only bright enough to study for a few years, the blink of an eye in astronomical time scales. Precisely timed observations is termed Time Domain Astronomy, TDA, and Randy’s efforts in observatory operations have been to develop policies and procedures compatible with the unique requirements of TDA observations.  Randy is member of the UCLA Galactic Center Group where he contributes TDA expertise and tools for three-dimensional visualization of data.

Greg Doppmann received his BA and Ph.D. astronomy degrees from the University of Texas at Austin in 1994 and 2002.  As an undergraduate, he developed a code that predicted the far-IR fluxes of selected asteroids used to calibrate the responsivity of a prototype bolometer array used aboard the Kuiper Airborne Observatory.  As a graduate student, he was directly involved in infrared instrumentation, building two spectrographs and a dichroic speckle camera for the McDonald Observatory.  Greg’s thesis research under Dr. Dan Jaffe, was focused on star formation, where he characterized the physical properties of pre-main sequence stars from their high-resolution near-infrared spectra by matching key diagnostic photospheric lines to spectral synthesis models.  As a National Research Council science fellow at NASA’s Ames Research Center working with Dr. Tom Greene, Greg expanded his spectral fitting technique to include more embedded protostellar sources and using additional diagnostic lines, afforded by data taken with Keck/NIRSPEC.  In 2004, Greg joined the science staff at the Gemini Observatory in Chile, where he was directly involved in upgrading GNIRS.  In 2006, Greg moved to NOAO in Tucson where he began his research on planet formation by characterizing the dynamics and composition of inner disk regions (i.e., terrestrial planet-forming zones) surrounding protostars from high resolution L and M-band spectra and detailed fits to circumstellar model spectra.  Since 2011, Greg has worked at the W.M. Keck Observatory, where he is the instrument scientist for NIRSPEC and HIRES.  He is presently leading the upgrade of NIRSPEC for the observatory.  Greg is very excited to be bringing cutting-edge, high-resolution spectroscopy to the Keck community, and looks forward to continued collaborations and teaching opportunities that are connected this fantastic resource atop Maunakea.

Percy Gomez received a B.S. in Physics from the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru and M.S. and a Ph. D. in Astronomy from New Mexico State University in 1998. He has previously been a postdoctoral fellow at Rutgers and Carnegie Mellon University. Before moving to W. M. Keck Observatory as a Support Astronomer in 2016 he was an Associate Scientist at  Gemini Observatory. Percy’s research focusses on the study of the physics of galaxy clusters mergers and galaxy cluster evolution. In order to do this he combines multi-wavelength observations with numerical simulations and theoretical models of cluster evolution.  Currently he is the instrument scientist for NIRES (Near-Infrared Echelette Spectrometer) mounted on Keck 2.

Dr. Jim Lyke received his B.S. in Astrophysics in 1997 and his Ph.D. in Astrophysics in 2003 from the University of Minnesota. Dr. Lyke currently works at the W. M. Keck Observatory as a Staff Astronomer, ensuring visiting scientists receive their data. As an instrument scientist, he is responsible for maintenance and operation of optical and infrared instrumentation. Dr. Lyke’s research interests include classical novae. Using Adaptive Optics, Dr. Lyke is interested in how the dust and/or emission lines are distributed in the expanding shell of the outburst. In supporting observations, Dr. Lyke enjoys working with many different cutting-edge research projects in all areas of astronomy, including solar system objects, stars, the Galactic Center, and even galaxies at z > 9.

Dr. Elena Manjavacas graduated in 2010 in Physics from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain). In 2011, she obtained a master in Astrophysics from the Universidad Complutense and Autonoma de Madrid. Elena did her PhD thesis at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (Heidelberg, Germany) between 2011 and 2015, in the field of Low-mass stars, Brown Dwarfs and Exoplanets. In 2015, Elena moved for her first postdoc to the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC), in Spain, where she worked on the commissioning of EMIR, a near-infrared multi object spectrograph installed at the 10-m GTC telescope in La Palma (Spain). In 2016, she moved to Tucson (Arizona, USA), to start her second postdoc at the Steward Observatory (University of Arizona), where she continued her research on the flux variability of brown dwarfs and planetary-mass objects, using the WFC3 instrument at Hubble Space Telescope. Since January 2019, Elena is a Staff Astronomer at W. M. Keck Observatory.

Luca Rizzi received both his Laurea (undergraduate) and Ph.D. from the University of Padova, in Italy, in 1999 and 2003. He worked with Prof. Brent Tully at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa on building the largest extragalactic distance database and mapping the largest superstructures in the Local Universe. In 2007, he joined the Joint Astronomy Centre in Hilo, Hawaii, as a Sky Survey Support Astronomer, in charge of the UKIDSS infrared sky survey and, after the completion of the survey, transitioned to the software group working on data reduction pipelines. Since 2011 he works as a Staff Astronomer at W.M. Keck Observatory, where he is the instrument scientist for LRIS and KCWI. His specialty is scientific software and his main focus is the development of data reduction pipelines. Scientifically, Luca is interested in the field of resolved stellar population and in the use of simulated color-magnitude diagrams to retrieve the star formation and chemical enrichment histories of Local Group and Local Universe galaxies. In close connection to these topics, Luca also focuses on distance indicators and on the role of AGB stars as tracers of star formation.

Josh Walawender received B.A.s in Physics and Astrophysics from the University of California at Berkeley in 2000 and his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2006.  After working at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, The University of Hawaii at Hilo, and Subaru Telescope, he now works as a Staff Astronomer at the W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea.  Josh has experience working on astronomical software such as data reduction pipelines, infrared instrumentation on large telescopes (e.g. the FMOS, MOIRCS, and MOSFIRE instruments), small robotic telescopes, and citizen science projects.  Josh’s research interests lie in the area of protostellar outflows and young stars.  At Keck, Josh is currently the instrument scientist for the MOSFIRE instrument and serves as the Mainland Observing Coordinator.

Dr. Sherry Yeh received her Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics from the University of Toronto in Canada in 2013. Sherry worked at Subaru Telescope as a NAOJ-Subaru Research Fellow from 2013 to 2016, and she joined W. M. Keck Observatory as a Staff Astronomer in 2017. Sherry has worked on the interactions between massive stars and their interstellar medium in extragalactic HII regions, understanding the stellar feedback mechanisms such as radiation pressure and stellar winds. Sherry carries out her research in near- and mid-infrared observations using Keck, SOFIA, and Subaru Telescope, as well as in numerical simulations using Cloudy. Sherry is extending her research work to nearby galaxies containing AGNs, and most recently she is collaborating with astronomers who study white dwarfs to run Cloudy simulations. Sherry also has worked on protostellar outflows using radio interferometry data. As a Staff Astronomer at Keck, Sherry supports OSIRIS+LGS-AO (heavily), MOSFIRE, HIRES, NIRC2+LGS-AO, and KCWI. Sherry enjoys working with and learning from astronomers of all fields, and she loves teaching astronomy to very young minds.

Senior Adaptive Optics Scientist

Dr. Sam Ragland currently leads the observatory’s point spread function (PSF) reconstruction and the AO optimization efforts. Sam plays a lead role in the Keck All-sky Precision Adaptive optics (KAPA) and the Keck Planet Imager and Characterizer (KPIC) projects. Sam was a major contributor to the development of the Keck Interferometer (KI) and served as the KI Operations Manager/Scientist of the during 2007-2012. As AO scientist, Sam led the on-sky commissioning and optimization of a new laser and laser beam transport system with the Keck II AO system, and the calibrations of the near-infrared tip-tilt sensor with the Keck I AO system. Sam’s research interests include high spatial resolution studies of debris disks and disks surrounding young stellar objects, and high contrast imaging of exoplanets.The focus this year is to offer projects that are directly or indirectly related to the KAPA project.




This page last updated 11 Apr 2019, gm