Get to Know Gemini! Erik Dennihy

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

Name:  Erik Dennihy

What is your current position and at which telescope?

I am Science Fellow at Gemini South.

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

I support daily operations in a variety of roles including carrying out observations during the night, planning the nighttime observations during the day, and assisting users in setting up their observing programs throughout the day.

How long have you worked for Gemini?

Just over six months.

What drew you to this job?

The flexibility. This position allows me to work with the observatory from every viewpoint imaginable, including the user, as 50 percent of my time is allocated for personal research.

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

I was born in New York but raised in Georgia. My family from New York claims I have a strong southern accent while my friends from Georgia love to point out my northern accent. I’m convinced they’re both wrong.

In three lines, explain your PhD thesis.

For my thesis I collected new observations of the crushed of pieces of planets that get left behind after their host star dies. In order to collect the data, I spent a few years upgrading one the instruments at the SOAR telescope, adding a second camera with new capabilities. With this camera, we discovered new systems and observed them changing on timescales never before seen!

What are your current research interests?

My current research interest is to understand the spectral energy distributions of local luminous infrared galaxies, using data from Herschel, Spitzer, WISE, and IRAS.  Using these data we can construct the first-ever view of the infrared spectral energy distribution.  I am also interested in the nature of luminous infrared galaxies at high redshift, where they are many more times common than in the local universe.  I am currently using Keck MOSFIRE data to analyze the rest-frame optical spectra of luminous infrared galaxies at z~2.3.

What is the latest book you have read?

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, but only because I’ve read it several times. It’s my go-to travel book.

What three albums would you bring with you to a desert island?

Hospice by The Antlers, How Strange, Innocence by Explosions In The Sky, and Good News for People Who Love Bad News by Modest Mouse.

Favorite beverage?

Tropicalia IPA from Creature Comforts Brewing in Athens Georgia

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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