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NASA Science Update: Swift Short Burst
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In a Flash NASA Helps Solve 35-year-old Cosmic Mystery

Moderator: Dr. Kim Weaver,
NASA HQ Program Scientist and Press Liaison

Dr. Kim Weaver photo
Dr. Kim Weaver is on temporary assignment at NASA Headquarters as a Program Scientist and the Press Liaison for space science missions within the Universe Division. She began studying astronomy at the University of Maryland and discovered the world of High-Energy Astrophysics as a graduate researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. After graduating with a Ph.D., she moved to Penn State University and then to Johns Hopkins University, where she is currently affiliated as an adjunct Associate Professor. In 1996, Dr. Weaver won a NASA Presidential Early Career Award to pursue research in extragalactic astronomy. In 1998, she returned to NASA to continue her career as an x-ray astrophysicist at Goddard Space Flight Center.

Presenter 1: Dr. Neil Gehrels
Swift Principal Investigator, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Dr. Neil Gehrels photo
Dr. Neil Gehrels is head of the Astroparticle Physics Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. He is Principal Investigator of NASA's SWIFT Observatory which was launched in November 2004. His research involves building space flight instruments to observe astronomical objects. The emphasis of his research is on explosive events in the cosmos such as gamma-ray bursts and supernovae. He received his Ph.D. in physics at Caltech in 1981 and has been an astrophysicist at Goddard since that time. He was Project Scientist for the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory during its operations from 1991 to 2000.

Presenter 2: Dr. George Ricker
HETE Principal Investigator, MIT-Kavli Institute

George Ricker
Dr. George Ricker is currently Director of the CCD Laboratory in the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. Since 1971, Dr. Ricker has been a member of the staff and faculty at MIT, where he presently serves as Senior Research Scientist. He received his undergraduate degree from MIT in physics. He obtained an M.S. in astronomy from Yale University, and a Ph.D. in physics from MIT.

Dr. Ricker is the Principal Investigator (PI) for the international High Energy Transient Explorer (HETE) mission - a small satellite incorporating instruments from France, Japan, and the US - which was successfully launched on 9 October 2000. HETE is the first satellite mission entirely devoted to the study of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). Dr. Ricker was also the PI for the CCD Solid State Imaging Spectrometer (SIS) on the Japan-US ASCA mission (successfully launched on 1993), and is Deputy-PI for the Chandra X-ray Observatory Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS; launched in 1999), and was the US PI for the X-ray Imaging Spectrometer (XIS) CCD Camera on the Japan-US Astro-E1 mission. He leads the Reflection Grating Focal Plane Camera Study Team for Constellation-X, and he is a member of the NASA Facility Science Team for that proposed mission.

Dr. Ricker's current astronomical interests include studies of gamma-ray burst sources and their counterparts. With the HETE Team, he is the co-discover of more than 80 accurately-localized GRBs, including the definitive event which established the GRB-Supernova connection (GRB 030329) and more that two dozen X-ray Flashes (XRFs). His experimental interests are focused on the development of new solid state photon detectors, based on silicon charge-coupled devices (CCDs), intended primarily for astronomical applications. Dr. Ricker has published more than 300 papers in astronomy, high energy astrophysics, and experimental physics.

Presenter 3: Dr. Derek Fox
Assistant Professor of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Penn State University, State College, Penn.

Derek Fox photo Derek Fox graduated from Princeton University summa cum laude in physics and performed his doctoral studies in the MIT physics department. His Ph.D. thesis focused on X-ray studies of neutron stars and black holes in the Milky Way, and on the X-ray emission of distant supernovae. After graduation he went to Caltech as a Postdoctoral Scholar and expanded his research into the study of gamma-ray bursts, the brightest explosions in the Universe. Working with an international team lead out of Caltech, he used ground-based telescopes and NASA satellites to discover the afterglows of dozens of gamma-ray bursts, including the first three afterglows of X-ray flashes. As a new professor at Penn State University, he continues to be interested in the physics and cosmic applications of gamma-ray burst afterglows. Additional research interests of his include the study of black holes and collapsed remnants of massive stars, and exploring the possibilities for fast-response observations and many-object surveys made possible by the new generation of robotic telescopes.

Presenter 4: Dr. Albert Lazzarini
Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena

Albert Lazzarini photo Dr. Albert Lazzarini graduated Phi Beta Kappa in Physics from MIT in 1974. He obtained his Ph.D. in Experimental Nuclear Physics also from MIT in 1978. After six years of postdoctoral and research faculty appointments at the Nuclear Physics Laboratory of the University of Washington, he joined Kaman Sciences Corporation in Colorado Springs, CO, where he served as PI on a number of DoD electro-optics programs.

In 1994, he came to Caltech as a Member of the Professional Staff and joined LIGO Laboratory. He first served as Manager for Systems Integration during LIGO construction. At present, he is Data and Computing Group Leader for the laboratory. He manages the LIGO's data archive and distributed computing systems for data analysis.

His research interests include the use of the LIGO interferometers to search for gravitational waves from a variety of sources. Of particular interest are (i) the search for a stochastic gravitational wave background either from the early Universe or from more recent astrophysical processes, and (ii) LIGO coordination with worldwide gravitational wave detectors to implement a coherent network enabling the global detection of gravitational waves.

Presenter 5: Rocky Kolb, Director
Particle Astrophysics Center, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Batavia, Ill

Rocky Kolb photo Edward W. Kolb (known to most as Rocky) is a founding head of the NASA/Fermilab Astrophysics Group at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and a Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at The University of Chicago. Presently he is the Director of the Particle Astrophysics Center at Fermilab. A native of New Orleans, he received a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas. Postdoctoral research was performed at the California Institute of Technology and Los Alamos National Laboratory where he was the J. Robert Oppenheimer Research Fellow. He has served on editorial boards of several international scientific journals as well as Astronomy magazine.

Kolb is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He was the recipient of the 2003 Oersted Medal of the American Association of Physics Teachers and the 1993 Quantrell Prize for teaching excellence at the University of Chicago. His book for the general public, Blind Watchers of the Sky, received the 1996 Emme Award of the American Aeronautical Society.

The field of Rocky's research is the application of elementary-particle physics to the very early Universe. In addition to over 200 scientific papers, he is a co-author of The Early Universe, the standard textbook on particle physics and cosmology.

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NASA Official: Brian Dunbar
Last Updated: May 26, 2010
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