Milky Way

Karen Kinemuchi

Head of the CLAS

Astronomy post-doc bridges the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

Karen Kinemuchi is going to be very busy for the next few years. She will be studying the stars in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, and sharing her research with two different countries.

As an astronomy postdoctoral research associate, Kinemuchi will be working on a collaborative project between UF Astronomy Professor Ata Sarajedini and Professor Doug Geisler of the Universidad de Concepcion in Chile. She will spend part of her three-year term in Chile and the rest at UF, strengthening international research ties between the two institutions.

Dr. Ata Sarajedini and his group have been funded by the National Science Foundation to continue their studies of open star clusters in the Milky Way. These are systems of stars that are born at the same time and in the same place that allow astronomers to study the properties of the Milky Way's disk.

While in Chile, Kinemuchi will observe the Southern sky using telescopes to gather a large collection of data on open clusters. When she returns to the U.S., she will compare her data to images that have already been collected by various members of the
project consortium, which includes the astronomy research team at UF.

“We will be working to make a large library, or rather, a useful resource for other astronomers who are studying the Milky Way Galaxy, as well as how stars work, so we then can form parameters to aid other researchers,” Kinemuchi said. “Open star clusters viewable from the Southern hemisphere will help complement the information we have from Northern open clusters. A study of this kind has not been done for these star clusters in the Southern hemisphere."

In Chile, Kinemuchi will be forming a group to help her with the research project. “We want to develop a group in Chile for this project to investigate further what the Southern open clusters tell us about our home galaxy,” Kinemuchi said.

Kinemuchi said one of the exciting benefits of her research is she will get to collaborate with Chilean astronomers and take advantage of time at some of country’s many telescopes. She will be eligible to apply for telescope time through the Chilean astronomical community, which has access to virtually all of the telescopes in that country numbering several dozen. “Also, I will get to act as a liaison between the two hemispheres because students working with Dr. Sarajedini can apply for time with the Chilean telescopes now.”

Kinemuchi found this unique position while looking for her second post-doctoral position. “As an astronomer you typically have to complete two post-docs at different universities to prepare you for tenured positions,” she said. “I was looking for a job that uses my skills as an astronomer—a position that allows me to use telescopes to collect data—and found this wonderful opportunity.”

While in Chile, Kinemuchi will first immerse herself in data and concentrate on setting up her projects. “Not only will I be working on this project, but I will also have my own separate project to complete as a post-doc,” she said. “I will be applying for telescope time in the Southern hemisphere and, with that time, obtain images of the open clusters. Then I will begin constructing a nice library of information and merging it with one that is being established for the Northern clusters. I intend to go to conferences, here in the U.S. and internationally, to promote the project, for which both universities will receive acknowledgement."

Kinemuchi has a B.S. in physics and astronomy from Case Western Reserve University, an M.A. in astronomy from Wesleyan University and a Ph.D. in astronomy and astrophysics from Michigan State University. Prior to coming to UF, Kinemuchi served as a postdoctoral research scientist at the University of Wyoming.



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