The New York Academy of Sciences
STEM Supreme: Rebecca Oppenheimer
Posted July 23, 2021
In this fourth episode of the webinar series STEM Supremes: Conversations with Women in Science, the Academy’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Brooke Grindlinger, interviewed Dr. Rebecca Oppenheimer, Curator and Professor in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History. A comparative exoplanetary scientist, Oppenheimer is a co-discoverer of the Gliese 229B brown dwarf, the first object smaller than a star ever seen outside of our solar system. Today she develops new optical astronomical instruments to identify and study the chemical composition of celestial bodies beyond our solar system in an effort to answer the questions: How does the universe work? How did we get here? and Are we alone? Dr. Oppenheimer speaks about her career developing innovative technology to study distant planets. And, as a transgender scientist, Dr. Oppenheimer also spoke about the need for greater gender inclusivity in STEM.
In this eBriefing, You’ll Learn:
- How astronomers detect and study exoplanets—planets observed outside the Solar System
- Fundamentals of coronagraphy, an optical technique for detecting distant celestial bodies
- Discovery of the first brown dwarf, the substellar object Gliese 229B
- Application of spectroscopy for studying atmospheric features of distant planets
- Challenges in designing adaptive optics systems to improve the performance of optical telescopes
- Potential career paths for astrophysicists
- Strategies for enhancing LGBTQIA inclusivity across the STEM community
A full transcript of this conversation is available for download here.
Rebecca Oppenheimer, PhD
American Museum of Natural History
Dr. Rebecca Oppenheimer is Curator and Professor in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History. As a comparative exoplanetary scientist, Oppenheimer studies planets orbiting stars other than the Sun by trying to see them directly and to dissect their chemical compositions. The co-discoverer of Gliese 229B, the first object smaller than a star ever seen outside the solar system, her research includes the development of new astronomical instrumentation that allows the direct investigation of objects in other solar systems. Dr. Oppenheimer serves on numerous national and international committees related to astronomical research, physics, and the state of astrophysics, including three terms on the NASA Astrophysics Senior Review. A dedicated educator and science communicator, Dr. Oppenheimer is an Adjunct Professor of Astronomy at Columbia University. She has also curated or co-curated programs including the AstroBulletin series of news items and bi-annual documentaries, the Digital Universe Atlas, the space show Journey to the Stars and the exhibit Searching for New Worlds.
Brooke Grindlinger, PhD
New York Academy of Sciences
Read more about Dr. Grindlinger, the Academy’s Chief Scientific Officer, here.