NASA Awards Fellowships to Two UT Austin Postdocs

3 April 2024

The highly competitive NASA Hubble Fellowship Program (NHFP) recently named 24 new fellows to its 2024 roster. Among the awardees are Jed McKinney, a postdoctoral fellow at The University of Texas at Austin, and Cheng-Han Hsieh, who will be joining UT Austin after completing his doctorate at Yale University this summer.

The NHFP enables outstanding postdoctoral scientists to pursue independent research in any area of NASA Astrophysics, using theory, observations, simulations, experimentation, or instrument development. Over 520 applicants vied for the 2024 fellowships. Each provides the awardee up to three years of support at a U.S. institution.

"The NASA Hubble Fellowship Program is a highly competitive program, and this year's cadre of Fellows are to be congratulated on their selection," said Mark Clampin, director of the Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. "They will undoubtably be future leaders in the field of Astronomy and Astrophysics."

As a Fellow, McKinney will undertake research on the lifecycle of galaxies as seen through the lens of dust. Dust, a by-product of star formation, is a small component of galaxies by mass but plays a transformative role in how we observe, interpret, and model them. McKinney will measure the properties of dust grains in distant galaxies to uncover the relationship between dust, star- and supermassive black-hole formation out to early times in the history of the universe.

Hsieh’s research focuses on using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to characterize the substructure evolution within protostellar disks, where young stars and planets are forming. As a Fellow, he will undertake a comprehensive statistical study of disk substructures around the youngest protostars, discerning the relationship between circumstellar disk properties and the primordial conditions of planetary systems. Ultimately, he aims to chart the full trajectory of giant planet formation.

An important part of the NHFP is the annual Symposium, which allows Fellows the opportunity to present results of their research, and to meet each other and the scientific and administrative staff who manage the program. The 2023 Symposium was held at the Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Science topics ranged through exoplanets, gravitational waves, fast radio bursts, cosmology and more.

The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland administers the NHFP on behalf of NASA, in collaboration with the Chandra X-ray Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena, California.

Jed McKinney

Cheng-Han Hsieh