Interview with Christian Johnson

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in your 4 years as an SAO Clay Postdoctoral Fellow?

My primary goal is to take advantage of the great telescope/instrument access at CfA and expand my range of collaborators and the types of projects I undertake. I also hope to play a role in the planning and execution of some of the large surveys of various CfA researchers.

Q: Why did you choose to pursue your research agenda at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics?

I was actually fortunate enough to visit before deciding to come here, and one of the most important things I took away from the visit was that CfA had a very open, collaborative, and inviting atmosphere. I also primarily work in the field of stellar spectroscopy and the access to the multi-object Echelle instruments on Magellan and MMT is pretty much ideal for me.

Q: Is there some element about the CfA that may be surprising to those who have never spent time here as a researcher?

While I already knew CfA was a large institution with many researchers, before visiting and interacting with the staff, I didn't realize how much of a benefit that was going to be. There are so many people and visitors working on different and interesting projects that one can always find someone with which to talk and/or collaborate.

Q: What types of collaborations do you hope to establish while in residence at CfA?

I think within a few hours after I received the award letter for the Clay Fellowship I already had 3-4 emails from different people at CfA expressing interest in either projects I am currently working on or inquiring if I had an interest in their projects. From these communications, I plan to collaborate (and am collaborating) with several CfA researchers on several small, focused projects and possibly 1-2 large surveys.

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

The ultimate goal of my research is to reconstruct the formation and evolutionary history of the Galaxy through the chemical enrichment of its various stellar populations. I specialize in measuring the chemical composition of large samples of stars via high resolution spectroscopy. However, recent advances in and availability of large format cameras (e.g., DECam, ODI, etc.) has piqued my interest in branching out to characterize stellar populations with both spectroscopy and photometry.

Q: How can the facilities and personnel resources at the CfA further your research project?

If I had to pick one type of instrument to use for the rest of my career, it would be a wide-field, multi-object Echelle spectrograph on a large telescope. This makes CfA's institutional access to Hectochelle on the MMT and the new M2FS instrument on the Clay telescope an ideal combination for me. For single objects, both MIKE and TRES have been great for following-up interesting targets. On the personnel side, there are many people in especially the SSP and OIR divisions that share similar interests with me in the fields of chemical enrichment and stellar atmospheres. I am looking forward to collaborating with them.

Q: Are the Solar, Stellar, and Planetary Division coffees a great way to network among researchers or is the coffee other worldly?

It is definitely a great way to network and meet the other people in the division. However, I'm not really a coffee or tea drinker so I can't say much about that...I do eat the cookies though!

Q: What do you think a typical day will entail for you at the CfA?

A typical day will usually include the daily SSP coffee, reading (and hopefully writing) papers, reducing data, responding to emails, chatting with collaborators, and measuring equivalent widths in spectra...lots of spectra.

Q: What has been the highlight of your first few weeks at the CfA?

Spending several nights at Las Campanas on Magellan was a big highlight...and then getting the data reduction pipeline to run was perhaps even better! I've also enjoyed meeting and interacting with all of the people in the office.


Clay Fellow Warren Brown