Science Alumni Spotlight: Eileen C. Gonzales

March 15, 2021

Eileen C. Gonzales

Eileen C. Gonzales is currently a 51 Pegasi b Postdoctoral Fellow at Cornell University in the Department of Astronomy [] and a member of Dr. Nikole Lewis’ research group. Her research focuses on understanding complexities in the atmospheres of low-mass stars, brown dwarfs, and directly-imaged exoplanets with observational and theoretical based techniques. Using atmospheric retrievals, her current work aims to understand cloud properties as well as key chemical processes shaping the formation and evolution of directly-imaged exoplanets and brown dwarfs. Eileen is a co-founder and a lead organizer of Black In Physics and #BlackInPhysics Week on Twitter, an initiative dedicated to not only celebrating Black physicists and our contributions but also to reveal a more complete picture of what a physicist looks like.

In September 2020, Eileen received her Ph.D. at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York in New York City, where she worked with Dr. Jackie Faherty in the Brown Dwarfs in New York City (BDNYC) research group at the American Museum of Natural History. While a graduate student her work focused on understanding the underlying cause of the variations seen in the atmospheres of low-mass stars and brown dwarfs, with a focus on low-metallicity brown dwarfs known as subdwarfs. Eileen’s thesis draws insights on the comparison between sources of similar fundamental parameters or spectral type. By using spectral energy distributions (SEDs), she determined semi-empirical fundamental parameters to determine how the overall SED shape and NIR spectral features vary for sources with similar temperatures and/or bolometric luminosity. To dig into the thermal structure and atmospheric composition of brown dwarfs, Eileen used atmospheric retrievals, a computational-based modeling approach, to compare differences in gas abundances and cloud properties. Her research involved field work at the Baade Telescope, Las Campanas Observatory, Chile.

While a doctoral student at CUNY, Eileen received a variety of awards for her conference presentations including the NSBP/AAS Beth Brown Memorial award and fellowships including the Mina Rees Dissertation Fellowship in the Sciences. During this time Eileen was also an LSSTC Data Science Fellow. As a graduate student, Eileen has also taught classes, including astronomy lab, and mentored high school through post-bac students through various programs including the Science Research Mentoring Program (SRMP) at the American Museum of Natural History.