Adam Burgasser, Principal Investigator

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[CV] [Bibliography] [Spring 2017 Teaching/Meeting Schedule]

Adam Burgasser is a Professor in the Department of Physics at UC San Diego and an observational astrophysicist investigating the lowest mass stars, coldest brown dwarfs, and exoplanets. He uses a variety of ground-based and space-based telescopes to research the physical properties and processes of these objects, including: optical and near-infrared spectroscopy to explore the atmospheres of MLTY dwarfs; high resolution laser guide star adaptive optics imaging and high resolution spectroscopy to search for and characterize low-mass multiple systemsradio, optical and X-ray observations to study magnetic activity; synoptic photometry and spectroscopy to investigate brown dwarf weather; and numerical simulations to characterize brown dwarf populations. He is best known for leading the definition of the T spectral class (part of his PhD thesis work), discovering metal-poor halo L subdwarfs, and investigating the remarkable L dwarf/T dwarf transition. He has authored over 150 publications on these topics, a few of which have made the news.

Adam is also involved in Physics Education Research in collaboration with UCSD faculty in the UCSD Teaching and Learning Commons.  In addition to deploying interactive and participatory teaching strategies in large lectures, he has tested the Cooperative Problem Solving model with ≈1000 students in Physics 1A (Mechanics for Life Science Majors) and developed a series of lecture videos for this course, a project funded by the UCSD Course Development and Instructional Improvement Program; co-developed a humanities course around the topic “Are We Alone?”; and explored embodied learning methods for the physical sciences. With YouTube phenom Dianna Cowern, he started the Beach Physics project to develop Physics content for middle school students centered around the beach environment; and has participated in a California Math and Science Partnership program to teach Physics fundamentals to regional K-8 teachers. He was trained in interactive and inquiry teaching methods through the Center for Astronomy Education and Center of Adaptive Optics Inquiry Training programs (now Institute for Scientist and Engineer Educators). In 2016, he was awarded UCSD’s Distinguished Teaching Award.

In addition to his astronomy and education research, Adam is interested in fostering creativity and developing artistic techniques in the teaching and communication of science.  He has been part of science-art collaborations Project Planetaria and cosmOcosm with Tara Knight (Theatre Arts) and Michael Trigilio (Visual Arts), which have explored data-driven artforms, science-art metaphors, trans-sensory perception, and participatory interaction.  With funding from the UC San Diego Frontiers in Science Program, he co-led a student team that built a prototype sound planetarium. With Patricia Rincon (Dance) he developed a movement- and gesture-based language for physics concepts.  These projects have been featured in several conferences and public events, including Audacious Speculations, the Deep Listening Institute Conference Series, and the La Jolla Playhouse Without Walls Festival.  Adam serves on the advisory boards of the UCSD Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and the UCSC Institute for Scientist and Engineer Educators.

Adam is engaged in improving equity and inclusion in Physics and Astronomy, by removing barriers for underrepresented groups and addressing equity at the undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral and faculty levels.  He has chaired the American Astronomical Society (AAS) Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy and is currently a AAS Councilor. He is also a member of the California Professoriate for Access to Physics Careers (CPAPC), and hosted a CPAPC Physics Graduate Admissions Bootcamp for minority students in 2016. At UCSD, he is the Outreach/Diversity committee chair for the UCSD Physics department, a campus-wide Diversity Coordinator, and faculty lead of the Undergraduate Women in Physics group which hosted the 2016 APS Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics. In 2013, he and co-investigator Willie Rockward were awarded funding through the UC-HBCU Initiative to start the UCSD-Morehouse-Spelman Physics Bridge Program.  In 2015, he was part of the organizing committee that brought about the first Inclusive Astronomy conference at Vanderbilt University; recommendations from this meeting can be found here. He is a member of the National Society of Black Physicists and SACNAS and has attended several meetings, and participated in the 2003 and 2009 Women in Astronomy meetings. He regularly contributes to and mentors students involved in the California Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation in Science and Engineering (CAMP). In 2014, he was awarded the Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action and Diversity Award at UCSD for his diversity and outreach work.

Adam’s research, teaching and diversity work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, NASA, the American Astronomical Society, the American Physical Society, the MIT Alumni Class Funds, the UC Office of the President, the UC Institute for Research in the Arts, the UCSD Center for the Humanities, the UCSD Frontiers in Science Program, the UCSD Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, the UCSD Division of Physical Sciences, and the Chris and Warren Hellman Fellowship.

Adam is originally from Buffalo, NY, and enjoys being away from all that snow. He is an avid surfer, frequent flyer, amateur ukulele player and working on his Spanish and Hawaiian. When he was more flexible, he was a national champion springboard diver and recipient of the NCAA Top VII award. When he had more time, he was Shakespearean actor trained in stage combat and had sufficient air time to earn an IMDB page.