Interview with Ryan Foley

Q: What is the focus and direction of your research?

I currently spend most of my time thinking about supernovae. I'm very interested in understanding type Ia supernovae by studying the peculiar events within that class. I also examine how type Ia supernovae change with redshift. Both studies will have a direct impact on cosmological studies by improving distance estimates using these objects and understanding their limitations.

Additionally, I spend some of my time working on core-collapse supernovae, GRBs, and other transients. I am a member of the South Pole Telescope team (which is finding thousands of galaxy clusters through the Sunyaev-Zeldovich effect) focusing on optical follow-up.

Q: How have the facilities and personnel resources at the CfA furthered your research?

Nearby supernovae can be relatively bright and the smaller telescopes at Mt. Hopkins are perfect for studying these objects. However, high- z supernovae are very faint and larger telescopes like Magellan and the MMT are necessary for good follow-up. The CfA is a member of Pan-STARRS, which will provide detections and light curves of thousands of supernovae both in the local Universe and out to z ~ 0.6. Since the CfA has large telescope access in both hemispheres, I can follow objects anywhere in the sky.

Q: What is a typical day like for you?

Email, coffee, data analysis, lunch, paper writing, and meetings.

Q: What has receiving the Clay Fellowship award meant to your professional career?

The Clay fellowship is tough to beat. A four-year fellowship gives me additional time to do research before applying for jobs. The telescope access is incredible; almost all of my proposals have been given their full time requests. The CfA is a great place to have a fellowship since there are plenty of people working in similar areas, but you also have your independence.

Q: How much do you work with the other graduate students, postdocs, and other principle investigators?

I work a good deal with other scientists at the CfA as there are many people who work on supernovae in some way. I typically have a couple of meetings a day with other people at the CfA to talk about science.

Q: What is like to live and work in Cambridge?

I live in Boston. I live near the Red Line (local mass transit system), so the commute is only 20 minutes door-to-door (with the aid of a skateboard), which is less than many people who live in Cambridge. Although I grew up in Michigan, living in California for six years made the first winter hard. But the weather is probably the worst thing about the area. Boston (and Cambridge) is a young city with plenty of students and young professionals; this really brings a vitality to the area that other places in the U.S. lack.


Clay Fellow Warren Brown