Astrophysicist elected vice-president of national society

Dr Karen Masters

Dr Karen Masters

A University of Portsmouth astrophysicist has been elected vice-president of a national society for amateur astronomers.

Dr Karen Masters, Reader in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, is vice-president of the Society for Popular Astronomy, the UK’s leading group for beginners to stargazing.

She was nominated by Tim O’Brian, Professor of Astrophysics from the University of Manchester and Associate Director of Jodrell Bank Observatory, who is currently president.

Dr Masters said: “It’s a real honour to have been asked to take on this role. I join an impressive list of professional astronomers who have previously held this position such as such as leading British space scientist Monica Grady.

“One of my hopes for my tenure is to work to make the society more inclusive. It was set up to inspire beginner stargazers of all ages and from all backgrounds, so I’d really like to encourage anyone and everyone to join – particularly young women, and young people from BME communities.”

Dr Masters earlier this year at a galaxy workshop for visually impaired people

Dr Masters earlier this year at a galaxy workshop for visually impaired people

Dr Masters will attend the society’s Saturday meetings in London four times a year, and as president will introduce guest speakers. This year she will also give a talk about results coming from citizen science contributions to astronomy at the group’s annual convention on 1 April.

Professor Bob Nichol, Director of the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, said: “Karen is an excellent ambassador for astronomy and it’s wonderful she has been elected. She is passionate about making a difference to the demographic of astronomy groups and will bring her enormous energy and enthusiasm to this role.”

Dr Masters’ research interests are in the area of extragalactic astronomy, typically using data from large surveys like the Sloan Digital Sky Surveys, as well as making use of crowdsourcing in Galaxy Zoo to learn about the types and shapes of galaxies.

She studied for a PhD in Astronomy at Cornell University, and spent three years working as a researcher at the Harvard College Observatory before returning to the UK.

In 2014 – the year she was appointed senior lecturer at Portsmouth – she had the honour of being named one of the Women of the Future for Science, as well as being included on the BBC’s 100 Women list.

Dr Masters will be vice-president of the society for one year before becoming president for the following two years.

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