My name is Erica (she/her) and I am a mixed-race (Hungarian, Asian, Mexican) first generation Hispanic graduate student and PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. I am from Southern California and obtained my undergraduate degree at UC Santa Cruz where I worked with Dr. Tesla Jeltema on identifying active galaxies in clusters in the X-ray and optical.
I am an explorer of different types of astronomy- In 2018 I worked with Dr. Jamie Tayar and Dr. Dan Huber on a project to investigate giant stars that do not follow the expected [C/N]-mass trend. Eventually my research interests gravitationally settled to focus on small bodies in the solar system – comets. For my PhD thesis I currently construct and analyze a large sample of comets from the Oort Cloud to answer fundamental questions in planetary science. To do this I am the P.I. of two large observing programs utilizing telescopes CFHT and Gemini North/South.
I have a strong interest in STEM education and outreach. I served as the astronomy lab instructor for 2018-2021 (six semesters) and created curriculum for in-person, hybrid, and fully online courses. I teach utilizing synchronous and asynchronous learning activites and hands-on and remote observing with amateur telescopes. For my efforts I was awarded the GSO Merit based award in Teaching (2021) and Nominated for the Frances Davis Award in Teaching (2021, 2022,2023).
I served as the Graduate Student Representative in my Department 2020-21 and I was instrumental in creating a cover-of-cost application waiver for graduate applicants to make the application to my department more accessible to those from all types of socio-economic backgrounds. Besides astronomy, I enjoy outrigger canoe paddling, collecting/growing plants, drawing, fostering cats, post-apocalyptic movies and indie horror games.
Links to talks about my research are listed below: Research Project 1 https://youtu.be/DbrY2R7KTCk Research Project 2 https://youtu.be/_tCROfzNVv4 Thesis Proposal https://youtu.be/EYctUW_Q1SA
ASTR110 – Introduction to Astronomy (Summer 2017) ASTR 110L – Introduction to Astronomy Lab – Naked Eye, Amateur, and Remote Observing (Fall 2018-Spring 2021)
Outreach Video for MKO@home about the Scale Solar System: https://youtu.be/LNLCCXlOtao Outreach Video for MKO@home about Constellations: https://youtu.be/4TTp-CiiB-U Lunar Phases Activity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taPoGNXi5Qg&t=2s Description of Research for ARCS Awards 2021: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KKxgTYbnP4
- 2018 Institute for Astronomy Best Research Project
- 2019 Institute for Astronomy Best Research Project
- 2019 Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) Best Graduate Research Presentation Award
- 2021 Soroptimist Founder Region Fellowship Award
- 2021 Hannah Liebreich Graduate Student Organization Award in Teaching
- 2021 George and Mona Elmore Achievement Reward for College Scientists (ARCS) Research Award
- 2021 ARCS Scholar of the Year
- 2022 Special Recognition from Governor of Hawaii David Ige
- 2022 Special Congressional Recognition from Ed Case (1st District of Hawaii)
- 2022 240th American Astronomical Society (AAS) Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Award
- 2023 Institute for Astronomy Excellence in Outreach Award
- 2023 Ford Fellowship Honorable Mention
- 2023 NASA Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST) Fellowship