AstroTech 2021 Instructors and Staff

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Jessica Lu

AstroTech Co-Principal Investigator and Lead Instructor

Jessica Lu is an Associate Professor of Astronomy at University of California Berkeley. Her specialty areas include Adaptive optics (AO), Astrometry, Black holes, Stars, Galactic Centers, Optical/infrared instrumentation. Prof. Lu works on several instrumentation teams that aim to improve AO and astrometry from the ground and space, including the W.M. Keck AO system, the Thirty Meter Telescope IRIS instrument, the ‘imaka project, and the Roman Space Telescope astrometry group. She is the Project Scientist for the Keck All-Sky Precision Adaptive Optics (KAPA) instrument.

Lisa Hunter

AstroTech Co-Principal Investigator and Instructor

Lisa Hunter is the Director of the Institute for Scientist & Engineer Educators (ISEE) at University of California Santa Cruz. She has been collaborating with the telescopes and the astronomy community for 20 years to offer programs aimed at the undergraduate to professional levels. Her work has focused on equity and inclusion, development of professional skills, and effective teaching and mentoring.

Shelley Wright

AstroTech Instructor

Shelley Wright is an Associate Professor in Physics at UC San Diego in the Center for Astrophysics & Space Sciences. Her research focuses on developing innovative astronomical instrumentation and observations using some of the world’s largest optical telescopes. Shelley specializes in near-infrared cameras and spectrographs, and studying distant galaxies and supermassive black holes. She is currently the Project Scientist for the first-light instrument IRIS for the future Thirty Meter Telescope and Principal Investigator for Liger a next-generation W. M. Keck Observatory instrument. Shelley has also been involved with Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) instrumentation and searches for over a dozen years.

Emily Martin

AstroTech Instructor

Emily Martin is an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Santa Cruz. She combines instrumentation and observations to answer scientific questions about planets and brown dwarfs. Emily is the PI of the PEAS instrument for Lick Observatory and she served as the Instrument Scientist for the NIRSPEC Upgrade for the Keck II Telescope. Her instrumentation expertise is in optical and infrared instrumentation, including optics, mechanics, and detectors.

Maren Cosens

AstroTech Instructor

Maren Cosens is a Physics Graduate Student at UC San Diego in the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences. Maren received her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 2016 before switching to astronomy for graduate school. Her research focuses on both observational programs and developing new instrumentation. Maren uses optical and near-infrared integral field spectrographs to study the conditions of both nearby and distant star forming regions and how they interact with the galaxy as they evolve. She also works on the mechanical design of Liger, a future imager and integral field spectrograph for the W. M. Keck Observatory. 

Matthew Freeman

AstroTech Instructor

Matthew Freeman is a Keck All-Sky Precision Adaptive Optics (KAPA) Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley. 

Alan Garner

AstroTech Instructor

Alan Garner is a Postdoctoral Scholar at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. His current research focuses on using multilayer mirrors and critical-angle transmission gratings in support of a future soft X-ray polarimetry mission. He earned his PhD in 2018 at the University of Florida where he helped design, fabricate, test, and operate two near-IR instruments for the Gran Telescopio Canarias.

Abhimat Gautam

AstroTech Instructor

Abhimat Gautam is a Keck All-Sky Precision Adaptive Optics (KAPA) Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Los Angeles. Abhimat’s research focuses on understanding the stellar population and dynamical environment of the Milky Way Galactic center, particularly with the aide of stellar binaries. He also works on improving precision stellar astrometry and photometry extracted from adaptive optics images of the Galactic center.

Ben Gerard

AstroTech Instructor

Dr. Gerard is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of California Santa Cruz working on adaptive optics (AO) and exoplanet imaging, with an emphasis on focal plane wavefront control. He received his Masters and Doctorate degrees at the University of Victoria, in British Columbia, Canada, working primarily at the National Research Council of Canada Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics, also in Victoria, with Christian Marois and others in the AO research group there on exoplanet imaging and AO.

Alicia Lanz

AstroTech Instructor

Dr. Alicia Lanz is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Carnegie Observatoriesbuilding astronomical instrumentation and studying the evolution of galaxies and the process of reionization of the universe. Dr. Lanz received in her PhD in Physics from Caltech in 2018, where she built an infrared telescope aboard a sounding rocket (called “CIBER-2”) to study fluctuations in the cosmic infrared extragalactic background to place limits on reionization. At Carnegie Observatories, Dr. Lanz is building the objective optics for the fifth Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-V) Local Volume Mapper (LVM) instrument, which will perform the SDSS-V optical, integral-field spectroscopic survey. Dr. Lanz also uses Carnegie’s Magellan telescopes to gather observational data on the chemical and kinematic evolution of galaxies. Dr. Lanz also has experience with cryogenics; optical, thermal, and vibrational system analysis; infrared detectors and associated electronics; systems engineering; requirements definition; and rocket launches.

Quinn Konopacky

AstroTech Instructor

Quinn Konopacky is an Associate Professor at the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences, UC San Diego. 

Renate Kupke

AstroTech Instructor

Renate Kupke is an instrument scientist with the University of California Observatories, UC Santa Cruz. Her research involves development of advanced instrumentation techniques for use in astronomical instruments, including adaptive optics with the Laboratory for Adaptive Optics at UCSC. She has also been involved in the optical design and commissioning of scientific instruments for the Lick 3-meter telescope, the Keck telescopes and the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).

Jerome Maire

AstroTech Instructor

Jerome Maire is a Project Scientist with the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences, UC San Diego. 

Saavidra Perera

AstroTech Instructor

Saavidra Perera is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of California San Diego. Her primary research is in the field of adaptive optics, i.e., to measure and correct for the effects the Earth’s atmosphere has on astronomical imaging from ground-based visible/infrared telescopes. She is currently working on testing and building the new wavefront sensor in the Gemini Planet Imager instrument, set to be mounted on the Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii. 

Claire Poppett

Invited Guest

Claire Poppett is an Assistant Research Physicist at Space Sciences Laboratory, UC Berkeley. She received a PhD from the University of Durham in the UK and then moved to Lawrence Berkeley National Lab as a postdoc. Her expertise is in ground based astronomical instrumentation – loves designing and building hardware and then watching the instrument work! Claire’s primary role over the past few years has been as the lead fiber scientist for the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) for which she has also contributed to DESI imaging surveys and instrument commissioning. In the past Claire has worked on space instrumentation such as FUV for ICON, and other ground based astronomical instruments such as the Keck Planet Finder. In the near term future she will act as a DESI lead observer at Kitt Peak in Tucson. The remainder of her time will be spent working on new instrumentation such as FOBOS for Keck and SDSS-V.

Breann Sitarski

AstroTech Instructor

Breann Sitarski is the Optical Systems Scientist at the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization. She uses her astronomy (infrared studies of the Galactic Center with adaptive optics) and engineering (performance modeling and design) backgrounds to continuously monitor and evaluate the expected optical performance of GMT. This includes participating in optical design work, writing observatory and system-level requirements and technical budgets, and various types of modeling. Breann is also responsible for the alignment of GMT, monitoring Key Performance Parameters of the Observatory, and working with subsystems on their design.

Sean Terry

AstroTech Instructor

Sean Terry is a Keck All-Sky Precision Adaptive Optics (KAPA) Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley. He works on various PSF-Reconstruction techniques as well as high-precision astrometry of gravitational microlensing targets.

Maaike van Kooten

AstroTech Instructor

Maaike van Kooten is a Postdoctoral Scholar at UC Santa Cruz. 

Cynthia Nelly Carrion, AstroTech Program Manager

Cynthia Nelly Carrión

AstroTech Program Manager

Cynthia is an Institute for Scientist & Engineer Educators (ISEE) Program Manager and works on the team that runs the AstroTech Summer School. Cynthia is involved in managing AstroTech in a range of ways, including program recruiting, application and selection, communication, and evaluation of program outcomes. She also serves as an instructor in the teamwork and collaboration sessions. 

Nicholas McConnell, AstroTech Curriculum Lead and Instructor

Nicholas McConnell

AstroTech Curriculum Lead & Instructor

Nicholas leads the AstroTech instructional team in defining the overall learning outcomes of the Summer School and in coordinating the development of multiple Summer School activities.  He pursued observational astronomy research as a graduate student and postdoc before shifting his focus to education and career development.  He has previously been a program manager and instructor for ISEE’s Professional Development Program (PDP) and Thirty Meter Telescope Early-Career Initiative (TECI).  In 2021 Nicholas joined University of the Pacific as their Director of Academic Assessment. 

Nicole Mattacola, AstroTech Program & Event Coordinator

Nicole Mattacola

AstroTech Program and Event Coordinator

Nicole coordinates all events big and small that support the programmatic goals of ISEE, which includes AstroTech. She arranges all travel, meals, and facilities for AstroTech, and can answer questions at any point from application to arrival in Berkeley about logistics. Nicole is a good first point of contact for AstroTech, and will connect participants with the right person to address their needs.

Contact Us

Individuals with questions about AstroTech should contact AstroTech program staff –


AstroTech is funded by the Heising-Simons Foundation and by the National Science Foundation through the Keck All-Sky Precision Adaptive Optics (KAPA) project (AST #1836016).