Douglas C. Leonard

Supernovae, the Fate of the Universe, and Broadening the Perspectives of Tomorrow's Scientists
Contact information:
Fellowship status:
Starting year: 2004
AAPF alumnus
Fellowship institution: California Institute of Technology
Current (or last known) position: Assistant Professor, Department of Astronomy, San Diego State University
Research Interests:

I study supernovae, the explosive events that mark the deaths of certain varieties of stars. My efforts are largely directed towards two related topics: The physics and early-time geometry of the explosion, and the use of supernovae as cosmological distance indicators. While at Caltech, I am leading an intensive supernova spectropolarimetry campaign at the Palomar 5-meter and Keck 10-meter telescopes to investigate the early-time morphology of supernovae, which is of fundamental importance to their utility as distance indicators.

Education and Outreach Interests:

Each year, I will offer Caltech undergraduates a course entitled "Inventing Reality: The Human Search for Truth'', that I developed and first taught as a graduate student at UC Berkeley (see the latest course homepage at: It is a broad survey of the history of human inquiry into the physical world, incorporating a wide swath of ideas in philosophy and the arts but with a particular focus on physics, astronomy, and how humans have struggled to find their place in the universe. This is an opportunity for Caltech undergraduates to examine the foundations of the present scientific paradigm, and gain an appreciation for how other societies at different times and/or places approach(ed) the same questions that Western scientists are asking today.