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Dr Karen Masters

Reader in Astronomy and Astrophysics

Karen Masters


I am a Reader in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation. I joined ICG in 2008 as a postdoc, was promoted to Research Fellow in 2010, Senior Lecturer in 2014 and Reader in 2015.

My interests are in the area of extragalactic astronomy. I study how galaxies formed and evolve in our universe using data from large surveys like the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. I am the Project Scientist for Galaxy Zoo and I often use information on galaxy shapes and types collected from this citizen science project in my research. I helped to install the UK LOFAR telescope in Chilbolton, and have done many observations with other radio telescopes, such as the VLA, Parkes, GBT, Arecibo. I’m currently working on the next phase of surveys for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, especially the MaNGA (Mapping Nearby Galaxies at APO) project (postdoc Dr. Samantha Penny works with me in Portsmouth on this), but also leading the Outreach and Public Engagement for SDSS as a whole. I’m also a member of Euclid.

I’m a co-I on an EPSRC funded project to use Galaxy Zoo as a case study to investigate the economics of online volunteering (PI Joe Cox). With Joe I’m leading an initiative to bring membership of the Zooniverse to Portsmouth and encourage other researchers to consider using citizen science methods to deal with big data. Part of this includes being line manage for Coleman Krawcyzk, our Portsmouth based Zooniverse Data Scientist.

I’m the Outreach Co-ordinator for ICG, a responsibility which includes being Line Manager for our ICG Outreach Officer, Dr. Jen Gupta. Finally I’m a member of the University’s Athena SWAN panel, and our departmental Project Juno panel considering issues related to gender equality in science subjects.

I’m originally from North Warwickshire (near Birmingham), and did my undergraduate degree in Physics at the University of Oxford (Wadham College). I moved to the US to do a PhD in Astronomy at Cornell University which I finished in 2005. After 3 years as a postdoc at the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard University (in Boston, USA) I moved back to the UK in 2008 to work at the University of Portsmouth. Initially I came to Portsmouth as the 2008 International Astronomical Union Fellow (funded by the Gruber Foundation), and in 2010 I won an Early Career Fellowship from The Leverhulme Trust to extend my position here, with was further extended by the Faculty of Technology Research Investment Fund. I was offered a (“Proleptic”, or delayed) Senior Lectureship in the summer of 2013 which I began in October 2014.

Research Interests

Galaxy formation and evolution. Galaxy kinematics. Galaxy morphologies. Citizen Science (especially in Astronomy). Economics of Online Volunteering.

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