Career Goals: Astronomy professor

His Story: Nick Kern came to U-M to run track and study astronomy, and decided to double major in physics. Inspired by his heritage, he’s minoring in Japanese. He hopes this might one day allow him to more easily collaborate with the Japanese astronomy community, which he feels is playing an important role in the field.

His Research: Nick is working with Assistant Professor Chris Miller to test the limits of the “caustic technique” in estimating the masses of galaxy clusters in simulations and the real universe. He’s been an author on a scientific journal article and is working to submit a lead-author paper before graduation.

Favorite Experiences: Doing a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) internship at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Virginia; presenting research at the American Astronomical Society Meeting in Washington, D.C.; and spending a week independently operating the MDM Telescope at Kitt Peak, Arizona.

His REU: Nick spent 10 paid weeks at the NRAO with 14 other undergraduates, each under the mentorship of a research scientist. His project involved using the Very Large Array radio interferometer to trace the dense gas that drives star formation in starburst galaxies. “The experience changed me,” says Nick. “It turned me on to a whole new field of astronomy and introduced me to the daily life of a professional astronomer.”




"RESEARCH IN ASTRONOMY
IS INCREDIBLY REWARDING.
IT FEELS SO GOOD TO TAKE RAW DATA
FROM A TELESCOPE AND TURN IT
INTO SCIENCE."

— Nick Kern

Value of U-M Astro: “Doing research in astronomy is really what prepares you to take the next career step. Because U-M has such a friendly and interconnected department, it’s relatively easy for undergraduates to get research opportunities. This isn’t important just for those going to graduate school; it prepares you for all kinds of jobs. Being able to work with ‘big data’, supercomputers, image processing, or instrumentation – there are so many ways to be successful with astronomy skills.”