Get to Know Gemini! David Sanmartim

Get to Know Gemini is a new series of blog posts aimed to highlight the different careers, backgrounds, and types of people contributing to Gemini Observatory and its science.

Name:  David Sanmartim

What is your current position and at which telescope?

Science Fellow at Gemini South

In four lines or less, explain what you do as part of the Gemini Observatory team?

As a Science Fellow, half of my time is dedicated to support duties: I carry out observations a couple of nights during the year, construct nightly observing plans, act as a day astronomer and support our PIs with their projects. The other half of my time I work on my personal research.

How long have you worked for Gemini?

Over a year

What drew you to this job?

First thing is that Gemini is one of the largest and best ground-based observatories in the entire world. So be part of Gemini scientific staff is a great honor. Second thing is that as a user of Gemini facilities, I have always been curious about all the “invisible” work behind a large observatory. So in my actual job I saw a great opportunity to learn about and get involved in the operation of a world class telescope and to have a good fraction (half) of time to do my research.

What is the best part of your job?

Hard to say just one, but I really enjoy doing observations. It’s one of my favorite duties here at Gemini. It’s very exciting to operate the telescope instruments and get in touch with the real data of a lot of different and inspiring scientific projects. Another aspect I really enjoy is that we help astronomers to optimize their programs and to get the best data that our telescope can provide. It’s very rewarding and motivating when we see that our job is important to other people and science.

Where are you originally from/where did you grow up?

I was born in Porto Alegre, which is the biggest city of the southern Brazil, and there I also got my PhD degree. However, I grew up in a small town called Candelária, which is 125 miles from Porto Alegre

What skill do you think is most important to know for your job?

The main skill is the technical and observational experience, but the most import quality, in my opinion, is to be curious. It keeps the mind open to learn something new every single day and improve our work.

Why is astronomy important?

I believe all the basic research fields are very important, because they represent the necessary groundwork for all the human development and technological advances. Astronomy has a very fundamental role in this scenario, enabling and fostering in many ways the technological development in our modern society. However, astronomy is even more important than that, since it helps us to understand who we are in the cosmos, how big it is and how amazing are the mysteries we still don’t know about it and about ourselves. Astronomy is also very important, especially nowadays, because it brings people across the world and entire nations to work together in cooperation.

In three lines, explain your PhD thesis.

I have studied the distribution of post-starburst stellar populations, the star formation history and the gas/stellar kinematics in the central region of a type of active galactic nucleus (AGN) called Post-Starburst Quasars. These galaxies are an excellent case to study the AGN feedback mechanisms and the influence of supermassive black holes (SMBHs) on their host galaxies, since they constitute a stage in the evolution of massive galaxies in which both star formation and nuclear activity have been triggered and are visible simultaneously before one or the other fades.

What are your current research interests?

I study the correlation between the growing of SMBHs and their host galaxies, which is a key issue to understand the evolution of the universe itself. This area has a lot of open issues to be answered and understood, so, in cosmic scales, I think I’ll be busy studying this topic for a while. One of my main interests is to understand the role of the AGN feedback in stopping the star formation in the host galaxy.

What is your favorite movie?

The Godfather.

What is the latest book you have read?

Ecce Homo, by Friedrich Nietzsche.

What is one hobby of yours?

Growing vegetables in my backyard.

Favorite beverage?

Red wine and sparkling water.


Check back next month to learn more about the staff that help Gemini to explore the Universe and share its wonders!

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