I am a third-year graduate student currently working with Dr. Jonathan Williams on analyzing protoplanetary disks and planet formation using infrared spectra from Keck for my thesis.
I’m originally from Kailua, Hawai’i, though I completed my B.S. in Astrophysics at Yale University. While there, I studied satellite galaxies with Dr. Marla Geha as a part of the Satellites Around Galactic Analogs (SAGA) Survey and protostars with Dr. Hector Arce as a part of the Mass Assembly of Stellar Systems and their Evolution with the SMA (MASSES) Survey. As an undergraduate, I also had the opportunity to work with Dr. Jens Kauffmann from MIT’s Haystack Observatory through an NSF REU, where I analyzed star formation rates within a variety of molecular clouds as a part of the Line Emission in Galaxies Observations (LEGO) Survey.
Once arriving at the IfA, I completed my first 699 project with Dr. Jonathan Williams, analyzing protostellar and protoplanetary disk masses in the Serpens region. I catalogued protostellar outflows, calculated dust masses for over 300 disks, and identified that despite intense clustering and a lack of massive stars, Serpens’s disk demographics are still similar to other young star-forming regions. I was awarded the prize for Best 699 Project of my year, and you can read more in my paper here.
For my second 699 project, I worked with Dr. Eric Gaidos on characterizing the dust and gas within the inner disk of the “dipper” star EP Cha. I utilized contemporaneous multi-wavelength data, from the X-ray to the infrared, to study accretion rates, estimate gas column density using solar plasma modeling, and contextualize these properties within the optical “dipping” events seen. Additionally, I constructed an IR photometry pipeline for use with the Rapid Eye Mount telescope, and was then able to identify sources of IR variability and a probable grain size distribution. For this work, I was also awarded the prize for Best 699 Project of my year.
I’ve served in several departmental capacities, such as the Graduate Student Admissions Representative or in the Faculty Mentorship Working Group, while at the IfA. I also engage in outreach through opportunities such as mentoring for the Maunakea Scholars program and volunteering at yearly AstroDay activities. Outside of the office, you can find me playing with my cat Cookie, watching movies, or playing time-consuming board games!

Alexa Anderson

Graduate Student
B.S. Astrophysics, 2020, Yale University
M.S. Astronomy, 2022, University of Hawai'i
IfA Mānoa, B-101