My name is Hayley Roberts and I am studying to be an Astrophysicist.
In 2016, I began my PhD in Astrophysics at University of Colorado Boulder. Before graduate school, I received my B.S. in Physics from Illinois Wesleyan University.
I am passionate about space but also inclusivity and diversity in the field.
Outside of research and outreach, I enjoy learning about data science and visualization.
You can contact me at Hayley.Roberts(at)Colorado.edu.
OH Megamasers (OHMs) are an astrophysical maser that often serve as a marker of merging galaxies. The signal of OHMs can be spoofed by a similar signal from HI 21cm spiral galaxies at different redshifts. I have created for a proxy to sort these two populations from each other using near- to mid-IR photometry and a k-Nearest Neighbors algorithm. This method utilizes the vast amount of IR photometry available from missions like WISE and Spitzer's IRAC to measure small differences in star formation that is observed between HI sources and OH megamaser hosts. This can accurately identify OH megamasers over 99% of the time. Read the paper here.
This work is done in support of the several current and upcoming HI surveys on Square Kilometre Array (SKA) precusors. This includes Apertif, an HI survey on the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope, where our algorithm correctly identified an early OH megamaser detection (Hess, Roberts, et al. 2021). Looking at the Distant Universe with the MeerKat Array (LADUMA) is another SKA precursor that is utilizing this algorithm and has already disocvered the highest redshift OH megamaser to date (Glowacki et al., in prep).
In Search of Inflation
Polarbear is a ground-based experiment searching for a small signal of polarization in the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) that would be the smoking gun for inflation. For Polarbear, I tested, characterized, and designed detectors that are deployed to the telescope to measure these small signals. (AAS 232 Poster)
Solar Image Processing
Understanding the Earth’s climate requires understanding the Sun. The Precision Solar Photometric Telescope (PSPT) located at the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory acquires images of the Sun to monitor the evolution of the solar surface. I processed raw images coming from the telescope to remove false features and artifacts and prepare them as a scientific package. (AGU 2015 Poster)
As an undergraduate, I studied laser assisted electron scattering. Further, I worked in the machine shop on campus building pieces and machinery, including a milling machine and CNC. I also taught students how to use the equipment.
Possibly the coolest thing about Astronomy is how exciting it is to share with the public. I’ve been able to do this in a few ways.
Currently, I am designing and teaching an after-school enrichment program for 4th and 5th graders in the Boulder Valley School District called Boulder Junior Astronauts. Each week, we '“visit” a new planet and perform hands on experiments to learn something new about each of the planets in our Solar System.
University of Colorado Boulder has something called Astronomy Day which is an open house in which the public can come into our planetarium and observatory for free and learn about astronomy. For the last two years, I have run a room dedicated to educating people about millimeter and radio astronomy by using Tesla coils, microwaves, and Jacob’s ladders.
A few other examples of outreach I’ve done are serving as a science fair judge, visiting elementary schools to demonstrate experiments, and hosting panels for high school students to ask graduate students questions.
I have been involved with education at all levels from elementary schools (as seen in outreach) to undergraduates.
Mentoring students is my favorite way to one-on-one spread knowledge and teach something new to students. I’ve mentored two undergraduates since being in graduate school. The first in learning how to code and process telescope data and the second in building and assembling pieces for detector testing. In 2018, I mentored a high school student for his senior class project on Instrumentation in Cosmology.
As an undergraduate, I was a teaching assistant for Physics 1, 2, and 3, Mathematical Methods in Physics, and Engineering Physics.
Making astronomy a more diverse and inclusive field is a goal that I share with many others. I run a group called Promoting an Inclusive Community in Astronomy (PICA) where we discuss these exact goals with regular meetings. Though we are largely a discussion group, we take action when needed. For example, we had an open conversation with campus advocates and lawyers about how the end of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) will affect astronomy and how we can protect and support students or staff with DACA. We also strongly advocated for abolishing the Physics GRE requirement in the department due to the known biased nature of the exam and were able to change to optional for future applicants.
I have also served on many committees within the Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences department (APS) at University of Colorado Boulder that aim to make our department a better place. This includes:
- Concerns Committee - a committee that is dedicated to solving internal issues in the department
- Exams Committee - a committee of students and faculty that make sure our comprehensive exams are fair
- Faculty Search Committee - a committee in charge of hiring a time-domain astronomy faculty member
- Admissions Set-Up Committee - a committee that was assembled in order to create a fair and inclusive admissions process for prospective CU Boulder APS graduate students
- Admissions Committee - a committee in charge of reading and evaluating >300 applicants to CU Boulder APS Graduate Program
As the field of Astronomy moves towards bigger and bigger data, the amount of data science expertise needed to be a successful scientist will also grow. I have a passion for being that scientist and educating future scientists about data science.
In fall 2019, I received departmental funding and support to hold the first APS Hack Day in which I brought in speakers with a range of expertise to present about a certain topic in data science. This event was attended by >40 people including graduate students, undergraduate students, post-docs, and faculty.
More information about the APS Hack Day, including resources from the event, can be found here.