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Brett Addison: A Star Researcher

Monday 3 July, 2017
by Ash Braithwaite
The shining life of an astrophysicist

Back in spring 2010 Brett Addison was living at NCV while undertaking astronomical research for his Ph.D. Brett’s research centred around discovering and characterising extrasolar planets (in case you’re wondering, they’re the ones that orbit around stars beyond the Solar System). Seven years later and he’s back in the US in the middle of a three-year position as a postdoctoral researcher at Mississippi State University. He’s still hungry for more information on those exoplanets. On top of this, Brett has been developing Starchive, an open access and open source stellar and planetary database that will be a helpful resource to the astronomical community.

Brett was born and grew up in Sarasota on the west coast of Florida. Up to 2010 the furthest he had gone from home was to complete his undergraduate studies all the way over at Florida Institute of Technology (note, that’s on the east coast of Florida). So naturally, moving out to Australia for 4.5 years was a big change, one that no doubt brought its fair share of nerves and excitement. It was at the beginning of this period that Brett came to live at NCV for a semester. Having been awarded the prestigious University International Postgraduate Award (UIPA) by UNSW, he began to carry out his Ph.D. studies in Astronomy/Astrophysics.

When Brett arrived in the land Down Under, the warm and inviting environment of NCV made his time at UNSW, and in Australia, a breeze. Brett says “living right on-campus at NCV allowed me to maximise my study”. However it wasn’t simply NCV’s location that enabled Brett to be so efficient in his studies and enjoy his time in Sydney so immensely. The community-feel and opportunities provided by NCV to build strong friendships and networks across multiple fields of study played a huge role in preparing Brett to establish good practices he would find useful throughout the rest of his Ph.D. and in life. Brett shares: Brett with some NCV friends

“I enjoyed the fact that NCV catered to graduate students who are serious about their studies. The weekly suppers hosted on each floor were great. They allowed the residents to get together, mingle, and discuss their studies with one another. However I am most grateful for the people I met from all over the world. I made many good friends whilst at NCV.”

Brett went on to help discover several transiting exoplanets and measure their orbital properties. He was formally awarded his Ph.D. in April 2015, and returned to the US before starting his current Postdoctoral role with Mississippi State in January 2016. As well as carrying out his research on exoplanets, Brett has been spending time working on Starchive in the wake of its online release in upcoming months.

Starchive aims to host all the useful properties of stars and planets in one easy to use online database. Examples of these properties include mass, luminosity, distance, activity indices, metallicity, and age and so on. Brett will have the opportunity to present Starchive at both domestic and international astronomical conferences in the coming year, as well as announce some additional peer-reviewed publications. Recently Brett and some of his collaborators at Yale University were also awarded access to the Keck Telescope to monitor a transiting extrasolar planet in order to determine its orbital properties.

With his Ph.D. supervisor shortly after he submitted his thesis

Brett seems to have a riveting future ahead of him. His hopes for the long term include continuing to work in the field of astronomy by completing another postdoc, and eventually becoming a full faculty member at a university or research institution. Alternatively, Brett has also expressed interest in perhaps shifting gears and becoming a data scientist. Whether the coming years see Brett stay in academia or go into industry, we are positive he will continue to achieve impressive things and make significant contributions to the world of astrophysics.

At the Keck Observatory in Hawaii