Joel Leja

Bringing Galaxy Evolution into Focus by Pushing SED Models to the Limit
Contact information:
60 Garden Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Fellowship status:
Starting year: 2017
Research Interests:

I study how galaxies self-assemble over the history of the Universe. My specialization is in interpreting images and spectra of galaxies. These observations are very difficult to interpret, as they are generated by a wide variety of complex physical processes: star formation, stellar evolution, accretion onto supermassive black holes, and the thermodynamics of cold and warm gas.

I build models which incorporate all of these physical processes and custom-fit them to catalogs of hundreds of thousands of galaxies observed across cosmic time. From this, it is possible to infer how galaxies change and evolve with time.

Education and Outreach Interests:

I plan to host an annual reverse science fair at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where professional researchers will show their research to students from local middle schools. This encourages and develops outreach skills among researchers while simultaneously engaging the middle school students in a critical form of active learning. I additionally mentor 1-2 undergraduate students each summer in the Banneker and Aztlan Institutes. These institutes prepare undergraduate students of color to apply to graduate programs in astrophysics, and will help to ensure equality of opportunity for these students.