Congrats to our 2024 Grads!

XWCL has a lot to be proud of this graduation season. Our best and brightest donned their funny hats and walked across their stages. What? You haven’t seen their defense blogs yet? Shhhh. The actual degree part, they’ll get there. Today is for celebrating!

First up was the Optical Science graduation.

Maggie and Co. lining up for their PhD walk!

Maggie Kautz getting hooded by Dean Koschel and Advisor Laird Close
Katie Twitchell, Valedictorian, giving the convocation address.

Next up was the ceremonies at the Steward Observatory:

Logan Pearce in her PhD regalia.
Logan and the other PhD graduates!

We wish them the best of luck in their future work!

Congrats on the Academic pageantry, and we can’t wait to see you all defend!

Song of the Day

For the Time Being by Sammy Rae & The Friends

A Toast to Warren, MSc, for the Miles Travelled

Cheers to mastery, mate!

On Thursday last week, Warren Byrum Foster of house XWCL, first of his name, Tzar of tubeless designs and the first picomotors, protector of PIAA lenses, cultivar of pineapple, breaker of linear shift-invariance, the unphased, and (most recently) Master of Science defended his thesis and restored peace and order to the 8th floor of the Optical Sciences building.

The public portion of the presentation detailed the many intricacies of the Phase-Induced Amplitude Apodization (PIAA) component of MagAO-X and I’m pretty sure I speak for more than just myself when I say that I learned a lot about the importance of this project for pushing the limits of the Magellan Clay telescope. Warren also had the foresight and kindness to distract us with tasty Mexican pastries and fizzy drinks while we awaited the good news during the “grilling” portion of the defense. We would all like to thank him for his work towards shrinking our inner working angle and furthering our long term science goals of becoming the best AO system in the world!

No windows were left with a cork-shaped hole, this clearly isn’t his first time…

Congratulations to Warren! Starting your grad school journey at the apex of the pandemic (Aug. 2020) and completing many of your core classes remotely and mostly solo was no easy feat (source: same cohort as me!) so extra kudos to you for sticking it out and finishing with a bang. We’ll definitely miss you and the positive vibes you bring; whether we’re on observing runs or just experiencing daily life on the UArizona campus. Here’s to the road ahead; may your hunts be fruitful and your arrows fly swift.

For now, Warren is continuing with the refinement of the PIAA setup with some fancy picomotors for finer control during operation. Further into summer, he is pursuing collaboration with the Roger Angel group to demonstrate his talents on the LFAST project.

A nice sunny day in the Summer of 1998 2023 provides the perfect backdrop for celebrating a successful Master’s defense on the 8th floor in Meinel.

For proper celebration shenanigans we found ourselves at 1912 Brewing Co. where we presented Warren with a super cool tee which he promptly and eagerly put on. (Thanks to Joseph for facilitating this!)

Song of the Day

The song of the day is an absolute classic and a known favorite of Warren. I chose this rendition because Ray Chen’s facial expressions while playing the violin more than make up for the lack of vocals here…!

Congratulations M.Sc. Avalon !

Advisor Jared R. Males and Avalon McLeod

Today another shining star of the MagAO-X team has defended! We all are so happy to announce that Avalon McLeod, after powering through a triumph of a thesis and defense, now has her Masters degree in Optical science!

Ready? Set. GO!

The story of Low Order Wavefront Sensing (LOWFS) was everything a AO control theorist could ask for. We got motivation from the 2020 Decadal Survey, multiple novel acronyms, AO diagrams old and new, PSF cleanup simulations, and stunning comparisons between lab and on sky results. Even those of us who saw the on-sky prowess of the LOWFS loop our own eyes were on the edge of our seats as she revealed how quantitatively well it performed our last run.

After the public portion of the talk, everyone but the defendee and the committee were asked politely to “Get out!” We all waited patiently for the committee to decide what we’ve felt for a while, that Avalon has earned the title of a Masters Degree.

(Well, we actually didn’t wait so patiently that we could help ourselves from sneaking a peak to see if they were done yet…)

The Optical Science’s building has glass in unexpected places, which mayhaps should be expected of an optics building

Among Avalon’s many skills is ceremonial un-corking (along with LOWFS-ing, nano-fabrication, hoodie fabrication, cameo printing, and a ccapella do-whops) and we celebrated!

Cheers to Avalon!
Now that’s a grad!

Congratulations Avalon from your MagAO-X family, observing runs and lab time won’t be the same without you. We wish you the best of luck as you go on to be an Astronomer for Draper in Boston! They’re lucky to have you.

Song of the Day

“Shining Star” by Earth, Wind & Fire

Congrats Dr. Long!

Yesterday our very own Joseph Long ascended the hallowed steps of academia and become a PhD holder! The PhD defense at Steward begins with a 30 min public talk summarizing your thesis (summarize 5-6 years of work in 30 mins????), followed by a snake fight with just the committee, who then kick you out to decide your fate. Reception to follow in the venerated “Interaction Area” at Steward, the area in which we interact.

I am actually in California right now doing an internship at NASA Ames for the next 6 months. But Joseph is pretty much my best grad school friend and I have a lot of airline miles, so I hopped a quick flight for the festivities.

There’s the Catalinas in the window

The Public Talk

It was standing room only (not just because the only room he could reserve was too small…) as the audience sat in rapt attention for Giant Planets, Sirius, and Starlight Subtraction At Scale.

Not a Joseph joint without the fizzies
The plot every exoplanet talk is required by law to show.
Time to get Sirius
Joseph’s aesthetic and vital GUI interface for MagAO-X
Diffraction gif but make it cats.
A certain member of Joseph’s committee is well known for his love of orange Fanta at the telescope.

The Celebration

Of course he passed! While the OpSci grads get lovely sashes, a certain Steward postdoc-turned-faculty Kevin Hainline pioneered a slightly sillier tradition for Steward grads: an elaborate crown and cape featuring highlights of their research. If you follow this blog, you are well aware of the craftiness of some of our group members. So the troops were mobilized into action in true XWCL spirit (with heavy consultation with Kevin).

The cape is an astronomy fabric with gold letters (Avalon-printed) and plots from his papers with logos he made as well. The crown has a circus flair, and features bells on the ends, with a dumpster (I mean a MagAO-X with one too few doors on the top, oops) as the center feature. Around the base of the crown are hand-drawn (Eden-drawn) animals from the mission patches Joseph designed, each with their own crowns. Jialin also made some incredible art of Joseph, to be featured below.

The encrowning and encapening

The ‘fit

cork poppin’
Jared’s first astronomy PhD student. He’s had all OpSci grad before this.
Three generations! Laird was Jared’s advisor.
Ewan Douglas was also a committee member. The other two joined remotely.

Joseph’s ‘rents! Two Drs Long + Dr. Capt. Mrs. Marta L. Gwinn-Long (Ret.) M.D. M.P.H.

I didn’t really get any pictures of the food! Jay Keuny’s partner Mel made incredible focaccia bread, Jay made amazing pistachio macarons, Maggie brought a lovely pie, and Jialin brought fun Asian flavor chips!

Behind the scenes

The crown begins

Eden’s amazing crowned animals
The cape begins

Avalon’s amazing craft skills on the letters

Jialin’s Joseph-inspired art projects

Bonus crafts

Jialin made some incredible Joseph art:

Noodle Chef Joseph
Jester Joseph. Check out the pineapple and space cats lurking in the cards.

As a congrats gift, I made as Business Viscacha, or Businesscacha, or Biscacha. Behold Bizzy Biscacha:

He’s got some serious viscacha business to get to.

The briefcase opens and there are little letters in there 😀

Bizzy in his new home, attendin’ to business.

The Future

This summer Joseph is moving to New York City to begin a postdoc software fellowship at the Flatiron Institute. He’ll still be active with MagAO-X so keep an eye on this blog to follow his adventures.

The song of the day is HAPPY!

Congratulations Dr. Alex Hedglen!

On Friday, April 14th Alexander Hedglen went from learner to master. Passing his PhD defense, he will go on to work for Northrop Grumman Corp in Rolling Meadows, IL. Alex has been the top optomechanical student for XWCL for the past six years! His projects range from designing telescope simulators to 3″ triplets to crazy mounting schemes for deformable mirrors.

Alex in action: fabricating a part in Chile
Alex in front of open MagAO-X in Las Campanas cleanroom before First Light (2019)

Alex and I started working for Laird back in 2017. I will greatly miss his mentorship and guidance. We have spent long hours in the lab aligning optics, gluing optics, and phasing the GMT segments on HCAT. He has taught me so much about optomechanical engineering and how to make some darn good presentation figures.

Alex and I in “break” room at Las Campanas

We wish Alex, Kateri, Ezra, Clover, and Callie the best of luck on their journey!

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Alex and me working on phasing the High Contrast Adaptive-optics Testbed (HCAT)

Song of the Day