An Astronomer maps out a diverse field

I am an observational astronomer who is interested in using new datasets and technologies to address classic questions in stellar astrophysics. One example is the survey of open clusters I am leading to calibrate the relationship between stellar age, rotation, and magnetic activity. The existence of such a relationship was established over 40 years ago in solar-mass stars, but its exact form and theoretical underpinnings remain unknown, especially in stars less massive than the Sun. This has implications for stellar evolution and for observationally determining the ages of field stars, an exercise that currently is surprisingly frustrating.

I am dedicated to bringing about systemic changes that will address the historic underrepresentation of women and minorities in astronomy and in science in general. The difficulty for anyone concerned by issues of underrepresentation is in formulating a concrete, feasible plan. As a graduate student, I helped write such a plan and worked to implement some of its recommendations; as a post-doc, I was the Associate Director of a Columbia program to assist underrepresented post-baccalaureates prepare for the transition into Ph.D. programs in the sciences. I believe the lessons I have learned along the way about how best to recruit and retain students into science will benefit all of my students.

In the summer of 2008, I was hired as the Associate Director of the Bridge to Ph.D. Program in the Natural Sciences, a new program housed in Columbia’s Office of the Vice-Provost for Diversity. The Bridge Program prepares underrepresented students for the transition to graduate school by offering college graduates the opportunity to work as research assistants while undertaking coursework and other activities required for admission to a Ph.D. program. As Associate Director, I oversaw the research progress of 14 post-baccalaureates, was involved in the recruitment of future cohorts, and helped plan for the long-term structure and funding of the program. In 2010, when I started on the faculty at Columbia, I became the Bridge Program director.

Back in 2012, the Columbia Record had an article about the Program. In 2014, I was interviewed for an article about the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-Ph.D. Bridge Program that appeared on NPR’s website. And in 2015, I was interviewed by the Columbia Spectator about Columbia’s efforts to diversify its faculty.

Agüeros (CC’96) is an observational astronomer whose research focus involves using new datasets and technologies to address classic questions in stellar astrophysics, such as searching for isolated neutron stars.  He recently was awarded the 2016 Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers.

To read more about Assistant Professor of Astronomy Marcel Agüeros, and his work, go here.