Associate Professor, Physics & Astronomy
School of Physical Sciences
Ph.D., John Hopkins University
Phone: (949) 824-7773
Fax: (949) 824-2174
University of California, Irvine
4109C, Frederick Reines Hall
Irvine, CA 92697
Astronomy, Astrophysics, Optical and Infrared Observations, Galaxy Evolution, Star Formation and Chemical Evolution Histories
Professor Smecker-Hane's research interests are in the formation and evolution
of galaxies. She does both theoretical and observational work in these areas.
Some examples include:
A) Determining ages and chemical abundances of stars in our Galaxy and other
nearby galaxies (the Ursa Minor, Carina, Fornax, Sculptor, and Sagittarius
dwarf spheroidal galaxies, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, and the
spiral galaxy M33) using high-precision photometry and low and high-dispersion
spectroscopy obtained with telescopes at such places as the Cerro Tololo
Interamerican Observatory in Chile, the Keck 10-meter Telescopes in Hawaii,
and the Hubble Space Telescope.
B) Developing theoretical models to understand the physical mechanisms that
control the evolution of the star-formation rate, chemical compositions,
and dynamics of galaxies, and defining the roles that supernova-driven
galactic winds and massive dark matter halos play in shaping the evolution
C) Searching for super-star clusters and determining their ages, luminosities,
sizes, densities and masses. Super-star clusters are extremely dense clusters
of a few million stars which may (or may not) be analogs to young globular
clusters. They represent a rare mode of star formation that appears to be
triggered when a galaxy undergoes an intense burst of star formation
(for example, as a result of an interaction or collision with another galaxy).
Studies of these star clusters will give us valuable insight into globular
cluster formation, and also may help quantify the differences in the formation
histories of elliptical versus spiral galaxies.
D) Determining the mass and shape of dark matter halos in elliptical galaxies by
mapping the stellar velocity field, and measuring radial gradients in the
ages and chemical abundances of their stars.
E) Exploring the star-formation history of distant galaxies which are members of
rich galaxy clusters at intermediate redshifts (0.2 < z < 0.5) using the measured
colors and spectral line strengths of galaxies in the Canadian Network for
Observational Cosmology (CNOC) redshift survey.
Professor Smecker-Hane primarily teaches astrophysics courses for graduate and
undergraduate physics majors as well as numerous classes in the P20 Astronomy
series for non-physics majors. In addition, she is the director of the UCI
Observatory, which is located on the outskirts of campus. The Observatory has a
24-inch computer-contolled telescope outfitted with CCD cameras and a spectrograph
and numerous portable telescopes. The public is welcome to attened Visitor Nights
at the UCI Observatory, which are held 4 to 6 times per year. (See the UCI Obseratory
web site for announcements of upcoming Visitor Nights.) Professor Smecker-Hane is
also the faculty advisor for the Astronomy Club at UCI, which meets bimonthly out
at the Observatory. She is the faculty lead for the Astronomy & Astrophysics cluster
of classes taught in the COSMOS Program, a month-long summer school for high schoolstudents gifted in math and science. She also leads a Faculty Outreach program in
Astronomy & Astrophysics funded by a National Science Foundation grant that funds
the UCI FOCUS! program. This program funds Visitor Nights for the general public as
well as individual tours for local schools that occur in the Fall/Winter quarters,
and a summer workshop in Astronomy & Astrophysics for local teachers.
American Astronomical Society
International Astronomical Union
Astronomical Society of the Pacific