Welcome!

I joined the Department of Physics at High Point University in 2013, after moving back to NC from a two-year postdoc at Penn State. I thoroughly enjoy working with our students and my colleagues, and I am proud of what our small-but-mighty department has accomplished over the past seven years. Our astrophysics research group focuses on pulsating stars, eclipsing binary stars, and evolved stellar objects, including white dwarfs, hot subdwarfs, and even neutron stars. As a member of the SMARTS Consortium, we frequently use the CTIO/SMARTS 0.9-m and 1.5-m telescopes, both on Cerro Tololo in Chile. We also utilize photometry from the robotic Skynet telescopes (in collaboration with Dr. Dan Reichart at UNC-CH), the Evryscope (in collaboration with Dr. Nick Law at UNC-CH), and NASA's TESS spacecraft. Our projects wouldn't be possible without the contributions of numerous talented collaborators around the world.

We are grateful that our research is currently supported by three external research grants, including an NSF/AST award (AST #1812874), a NASA TESS Cycle 2 Guest Investigator Program grant (80NSSC19K1720), and a NASA TESS Cycle 3 Guest Investigator Program grant (80NSSC21K0364). If you are interested in doing astronomy research, please check out our group's research page, and send me an email to set up a meeting! I also serve as the founding director of the state-of-the-art Culp Planetarium, which opened up in August 2019. We not only use the facility to teach undergraduate courses in astronomy, environmental science, and other topics, but we also host occassional K-12 field trip visits. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have initiated a remote outreach program through which we share flatscreen versions of our fulldome movies and produce virtual planetarium shows for local school children. Aside from research, teaching, and outreach, I enjoy playing the piano, writing music, running, and hanging out with my wife Jenn and daughters Clare (3.5 yr) and Josie (1 yr).

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Major Research Projects

Planets and brown dwarfs in close orbits around main sequence stars will interact with their stellar hosts once they ascend the red giant branch. The details of these interactions and their outcomes are currently unclear. Recent discoveries of brown dwarfs orbiting post-red giant branch “hot subdwarf” stars imply that at least some substellar objects are not only sufficient for ejecting the outer layers of a red giant’s atmosphere, they can also survive the engulfment phase. This work is supported in part by AST #1812874

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The Evryscope, the world’s first full-sky gigapixel-scale telescope, images an 8000 square degree field of view of the Southrn sky once every two minutes. For years, it has been building 1%-precision, high-cadence light curves for all accessible objects brighter than 16th mag. As a member of the Evryscope Science Collaboration, I and members of my group have been working closely with Jeff Ratzloff, Dr. Nick Law, and other members of the UNC Evryscope team to discover and study exciting new variables.

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Over the past few years, ESA’s Gaia spacecraft has been obtaining astrometric measurements of more than 1 billion stars with unparalleled precision. The reported Gaia DR2 G magnitudes were determined by combining multiple brightness measurements, with photometric uncertainties being determined empirically. Thus, intrinsically variable sources could have anomalously large uncertainties for their given G magnitude. Leveraging this fact, we have identified more than 1,000 candidate variable hot subdwarfs in Gaia DR2 and are following them up photometrically and spectroscpically with great success.

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NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is an all-sky survey mission to search for new transiting exoplanets through photometry. As such, it produces exquisite light curves for millions of stars. We submitted a proposal to the TESS Guest Investigator Program to collect two-minute cadence light curves of all candidate variable hot subdwarf stars identified from GAIA. These data will allow us to discover exciting new binaries and improve modeling of already-known systems. This work is supported by NASA TESS Guest Investigator grants 80NSSC19K1720 and 80NSSC21K0364

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