Osterbrock Fellows

The Osterbrock Fellows are UCSC Astronomy grad students who work with the senior fellows getting additional close-at-hand mentoring advice.

    Sara Crandall

  • Sara Crandall

    I grew up in a rural part of Kansas where opportunities for science were not abundant, yet astronomy constantly found its way into my life. I received my B.S. and M.S. in physics at Kansas State University, where my research interests revolved around cosmology. I enjoy thinking and researching questions about the evolution of the universe on large scales. Currently I am a part of a JWST NIRCam working group that develops mock catalogs and images. JWST will probe high redshift galaxies and will give insight into the earliest moments of our universe. It is a very exciting time to be an astronomer!

    I became interested in being an Osterbrock Fellow because I acknowledge that astronomy is not a field that should be done behind closed doors. It is vitally important for astronomers to communicate their research and express the importance of the field to young students, politicians, and to the everyday person. I dislike the responses I receive after meeting someone (e.g. on a plane) after I’ve told them what I study. Often they shy away from a conversation, or say “Oh you must be one of those SMART people.” Astronomy and astrophysics should not be an intimidating field, and I want to be a part of normalizing this area of study.

    One of my main goals during my fellowship is to bring forward the idea that anyone can be an astronomer. As a single mother of a four year old, I have received several comments such as, “Why are you getting your PhD? You’re a mom.” I want to support others in non-traditional circumstances to achieve their goals. Sometimes all it takes is a support system and a little bit of acknowledgment. I believe with the help of the Osterbrock mentors and fellows, we can support astronomers from all backgrounds.


  • Emily Cunningham

  • Emily CunninghamEmily Cunningham is a fourth year graduate student in the Astronomy & Astrophysics department at UC Santa Cruz. In her research, Emily uses the Keck telescopes and data from the Hubble Space Telescope to study the Milky Way's stellar halo. Emily is also very interested in education; she is an instructor for the Project for Inmate Education, a mentor in the Science Internship Program, and the coordinator for the Astronomy Graduate Mentoring Program at UCSC. Originally from New York City, Emily received her B.S. in Physics & Astronomy from Haverford College in 2012 and was a Fulbright scholar in Paris, France from 2012-2013.

  • Eric Gentry

  • Eric GentryEric Gentry is a graduate student at UC Santa Cruz, where he studies the intersection of computation and astronomy. In order to better understand the processes that limit star formation in galaxies, he is designing new hydrodynamic simulations and interactive data exploration tools. Eric was previously an undergraduate at MIT.

  • Viraj Pandya

  • Viraj PandyaI earned my bachelor’s degree in mathematics and economics from Rutgers University in 2013. If you had asked me three years ago what I would be doing in 2016, I would never have imagined, even in my

    wildest dreams, that I would be actively working toward a career as a professional astronomer. This despite the fact that I had founded the Rutgers Astronomical Society five years earlier in 2011, and had already immersed myself in the tantalizing world of public outreach. Eventually, through grit, passion, and good fortune, I was able to find my way into the realm of scientific research and meet the great scientists who would later become supportive mentors. It is also because of my great luck that I became one of the first two post-baccalaureate students in astrophysics at Princeton. Through this two-year program, I had the extraordinary opportunity to improve my
    understanding of basic physics.

    In my own research, I prefer to work actively on both theory and observations because that affords me deeper and more comprehensive physical insights about the nature of the objects that I’m studying. My research is broadly focused on the evolution of galaxies both near and far: those that live in the local Universe, those that existed only two billion years after the Big Bang, and the great diversity of galaxies that lie in between. Furthermore, given that galaxies seem to be intimately connected to pretty much everything in the Universe, I try and hope to also use them as bridges to explore and make contributions to other areas of astronomy: exotic transients, high energy astrophysics, the origin of supermassive black holes, and I hope many more topics in the years to come.

    As an Osterbrock Fellow, I hope to acquire the skills and experiences that will allow me to eventually serve in leadership roles within the astronomical community. One of my long-term goals is to establish and lead a team such as the Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey (CANDELS), which is the largest observing program ever undertaken with the Hubble Space Telescope. It has been my privilege to collaborate with and learn from several renowned researchers as a junior scientist in CANDELS. In particular, the opportunity to lead a comprehensive study of galaxy evolution with my CANDELS colleagues has been instrumental in helping me cultivate my
    self-confidence as a young researcher in the field. Throughout my time as an Osterbrock Fellow and beyond, I hope to develop programs that make it easier for students of all backgrounds to supplement their classroom experiences with leadership roles in cutting-edge scientific research projects and publications.


  • Diana Powell

  • Diana Powell

    My name is Diana Powell, and I'm from Austin, Texas. I first became interested in astronomy at the age of eight when I did an independent study project on "stars". I was lucky enough to have parents who nourished this newfound passion and I grew up taking advantage of the fantastically clear central Texas sky. Although I dabbled in other career paths (writing, public service, engineering), I decided to attend Harvard University and study astrophysics for my undergraduate degree. I am currently interested in furthering the theoretical understanding of extrasolar planet formation and characterization although I have still maintained a passion for writing and public service.

    I am thrilled that the Osterbrock program exists at UCSC and allows for me to cultivate my interests and passions outside of astronomy in an incredibly productive and supportive environment. As an Osterbrock Fellow, I hope to derive a better understanding of the structures that govern astronomy, as well as other fields and organizations, with the hope that this increased understanding will allow me to create lasting positive change. I currently hope to pursue an academic career in which I plan to apply the skills that I learn as an Osterbrock fellow to better myself as a scientist and as a leader.


  • Molly Kosiarek

  • Molly Kosiarek

    I am a second-year graduate student at UC Santa Cruz. I received my Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences. My graduate research focuses on characterizing exoplanets in order to constrain planetary formation. Specifically, I determine the bulk densities and atmospheric compositions of planets that have been discovered by the NASA Kepler/K2 mission.

    I want to inspire and support future generations of scientists. My long-term goals include improving the diversity in science. UC Santa Cruz Professor Ruth Murray-Clay has begun to improve the retention of diverse students in the the Undergraduate Physics major through a research class for freshmen that strengthens research, classwork, and collaboration skills while creating a sense of community among the students.

    The Osterbrock Program is enhancing my graduate experience and providing me with the skills necessary to achieve my goals. Diversity in Astronomy is part of a larger social and political issue. Last June, I had an extraordinary week-long experience exploring scientific leadership in Baltimore, MD and Washington D.C. through the Osterbrock Program. I, along with three other Fellows, interviewed people at all stages of scientific leadership. This valuable experience began to show me how I can affect change.