Profiles of Astronomers: Eddie Schwieterman

This week’s astronomer is currently a 5th year graduate student here at the University of Washington, Eddie Schwieterman.

Who are you and where are you from?

My name is Eddie Schwieterman. I’m a dual-degree PhD student in astronomy and astrobiology at the University of Washington. I’m from Florida and did my undergraduate work there at the Florida Institute of Technology.

How did you become interested in Astronomy?
I’ve been interested in science since a young age when my father took my sister and I fossil hunting. That interest carried into astronomy in high school when I viewed the 2004 transit of Venus through my telescope. I thought – how cool — this is a planet crossing the face of a star! I wondered if any alien observers were watching our planet just at the moment dot across the Sun.

If you’re an astronomer (grad student/faculty), what do you study?
My research activities include observations of Earth as an exoplanet, climate, photochemical, and radiative transfer modeling of terrestrial planet atmospheres, and generating synthetic spectra of model exoplanets. Ultimately, my goal is to contribute to the body of knowledge that will allow us to detect biosignatures on planets orbiting within the habitable zones of their parent stars.

What’s the coolest thing (not literal) in the Universe?
The coolest thing about the Universe is that if you have the right configuration of parent star(s) and planets, and one of those planets has the right composition – you can end up with a complex living world that breeds microbes and forests, pound scum and coral reefs, sentient beings and technological civilization. The idea that one part of the universe can begin to understand itself – to me that’s the coolest thing.

What’s the coolest thing outside of your field?
I have a lot of interests outside of my field. One of the things I love learning about is the ocean – the magnificence and complexity of the things that live there and the mystery of what we still don’t know.

What’s your favorite non-astronomy hobby?
I maintain some freshwater aquaria at home, which is really fun. I also like getting involved in community issues through organizations like the Graduate and Professional Student Senate.

Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?
I guess my website. It’s over here: http://www.astro.washington.edu/users/eschwiet/index.html

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