Welcome!

I'm an astronomy PhD student at the University of Maryland, College Park. I study molecular and ionized gas kinematics in nearby galaxies with Prof. Alberto Bolatto. I grew up in Spring, Texas (outside of Houston) and completed my Bachelor's degrees in Astronomy and Physics at the University of Arizona. I love trying new restaurants and cuisines, traveling, dancing, and cooking.

Research

I work with Alberto Bolatto to compare the molecular and ionized gas kinematics in the galaxies from the EDGE-CALIFA Survey. I have found that the molecular and ionized gas rotation velocities do not always agree. For our subsample of star-forming disk galaxies, many have measurably lower ionized gas rotation velocities than the molecular gas rotation velocity. We believe this is due to extraplanar diffuse ionized gas in these galaxies. I also study extraplanar diffuse ionized gas in a sample of edge-on CALIFA galaxies.

The EDGE-CALIFA Survey

The EDGE-CALIFA Survey traces CO gas in 126 nearby galaxies which have correpsonding optical IFU data from CALIFA. (Image credit: Bolatto et al. (2017)

I also study super star clusters in the center of the starburst galaxy NGC 253. Using high resolution ALMA data, we can measure the molecular gas and dust properties of candidate super star clusters that may be powering the molecular gas outflows in this galaxy.

Molecular Gas Outflow in NGC 253

The detection of a molecular gas outflow from the center of NGC253 (white contours) over the ionized gas (yellow) and soft x-ray (blue) emission. The background image is a composire JHK 2MASS image of NGC 253. (Bolatto et al. 2013, Nature)

As an undergraduate at the University of Arizona, I worked with Dan Marrone to study the submillimeter polarized emission from Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. I studied the linear and circular polarization fractions, as well as how the polarization fraction changes over time.

A Simulation of Sgr A*

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) will spatially resolve the accretion disk surrounding Sgr A*; this will be our first resolved picture of a black hole! The image above shows a simulated image of the accretion disk. (Image credit: Scott Noble/RIT)

As a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) student at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Socorro, NM, I worked with Juergen Ott, Dave Meier, and Annie Hughes to study the dense molecular gas in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) to determine the spatial distribution of the dense gas tracers found in clouds across the LMC. We also compared our findings to canonical star formation laws.

The LMC

The LMC as seen from the southern hemisphere. (Image credit: L. Comolli, L. Fontana, G. Ghioldi, E. Sordini)

Outreach

At the University of Maryland, I have become involved in GRAD-MAP, which pairs undergraduates from historically black colleges and universities, minority serving institutions, and community colleges primarily from the mid-Atlantic region with a mentor in either the UMD astronomy or physics departments. During the winter break, these students attend a ten-day Winter Workshop, where they learn Python and work on a research project with their mentor(s) and learn information and resources to help them apply for graduate school. For the past two years, I have served as a research mentor for a student. This year, I developed the student's project independently and also assisted with some of the professional development during the Winter Workshop. I look forward to my continued involvement in this program!

Prior to coming the the University of Maryland, I worked in education and public outreach at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in Tucson, AZ as the lead student. I ran programs for schools and classrooms, developed activities and materials, organized teacher workshops, published a monthly newsletter and bi-monthly podcast, coordinated the translation of materials, and ran a social media site. I was also one of the key developers for the International Year of Light 2015 Quality Lighting Teaching Kit, which has been distributed to partner organizations worldwide.
See me as a comic book character here! And here!


In addition to both formal and informal classroom experience with NOAO, I have been an undergraduate teaching assistant (UTA) for two courses. For two years, I taught an entry level, fully online math course. I worked one-on-one with students as they worked through their online textbook at their own pace. I explained concepts, worked problems, managed a section of 10 students at a time, and worked on goal setting with the students. I was also an undergraduate teaching coordinator for this course, meaning I mentored and trained the other UTAs. For one semester, I was a UTA for an introductory mechanics class for engineering students. I ran recitation sessions during which I assisted the students with difficult concepts.

Publications

Refereed Papers:
Levy et al. 2018 (in prep), The EDGE-CALIFA Survey: Connecting Extraplanar Diffuse Ionized Gas and Kinematics in Nearby Edge-On Galaxies
Levy et al. 2018, The EDGE-CALIFA Survey: Molecular and Ionized Gas Kinematics in Nearby Galaxies

Leung et al. 2018, The EDGE-CALIFA Survey: Validating Stellar Dynamical Mass Models with CO Kinematics
Colombo et al. 2017, The EDGE-CALIFA Survey: The Influence of Galactic Rotation on the Molecular Depletion Time across the Hubble Sequence
Utomo et al. 2017, The EDGE-CALIFA Survey: Variations in the Molecular Gas Depletion Time in Local Galaxies
Bolatto et al. 2017, The EDGE-CALIFA Survey: Interferometric Observations of 126 Galaxies with CARMA
Walter et al. 2017, Dense Molecular Gas Tracers in the Outflow of the Starburst Galaxy NGC 253

Presentations:
Connecting Molecular and Ionized Gas Kinematics to Extraplanar Diffuse Ionized Gas with the EDGE-CALIFA Survey (Astrophysical Frontiers in the Next Decade and Beyond, June 2018)
The EDGE-CALIFA Survey: Molecular and Ionized Gas Kinematics in Nearby Galaxies (The 231st Meeting of the AAS, January 2018)
Tracing the Dense Molecular Gas in the Large Magellanic Cloud (Steward Observatory Interal Symposium, October 2014)
Testing the Relationship Between Polarization Angle and Wavelength in Sagittarius A* (The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Consortium, August 2013)

Posters:
The EDGE-CALIFA Survey: Molecular and Ionized Gas Kinematics in Nearby Galaxies (The Role of Gas in Galaxy Dynamics, October 2017)
The EDGE CO Survey of Nearby Galaxies (Half a Decade of ALMA: Cosmic Dawns Transformed, September 2016)
Velocity Field Structure in the EDGE Galaxies (Molecular Gas in Galactic Environments, April 2016)
Tracing the Dense Molecular Gas in the Large Magellanic Cloud (The 225th Meeting of the AAS, January 2015)
Testing the Relationship Between Polarization Angle and Wavelength in Sagittarius A* (The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Consortium, August 2013)

Contact Me

  • Department of Astronomy, University of Maryland
    1113 PSC Bldg. 415
    College Park, MD 20742

    Office: ATL 1227
  • rlevy(at)astro(dot)umd(dot)edu
  • @AstroLevy