Dr. Amber Straughn, Astrophysicist
Dr. Amber Straughn is a NASA astrophysicist who studies how stars and black holes form in distant galaxies, using the Hubble Space Telescope and telescopes on the ground. She is a member of the Project Science team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center for the James Webb Space Telescope--the scientific successor to Hubble--which will be 100 times more powerful and launches in 2018.
Amber grew up in the small farming town of Bee Branch, Arkansas where her fascination with astronomy began under beautifully dark, rural skies. A first generation college student, Amber obtained her B.S. in Physics at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in 2002. She then went on to Arizona State University where she completed her M.S. and Ph.D in Physics with an emphasis in Astrophysics in 2008. Amber has been at Goddard full-time since 2008; prior to her current role she held a NASA Postdoctoral Program fellowship. She has been involved in NASA programs since her undergrad years, beginning with flying an experiment on NASA's microgravity KC-135 plane which simulates weightlessness (the "vomit comet") in 2001. During graduate school at Arizona State, Amber received the NASA Space Grant Fellowship for summer studies, and in 2005 was awarded the 3-year NASA Harriett Jenkins Predoctoral Fellowship for underrepresented groups in STEM.
Amber is an accomplished astrophysicist, having published numerous scientific papers. Her research focuses on interacting and star-forming galaxies in the context of galaxy assembly, where she uses imaging and infrared spectroscopic data mostly from the Hubble Space Telescope. Her broad research interests include galaxy formation and evolution, galaxy mergers and interactions, physical processes induced by galaxy interactions including star formation and black hole growth, and emission-line galaxies.
In addition to research, Amber is a passionate science communicator. She is a sought-after public speaker and has spoken at schools, astronomy clubs, museums, and research societies locally in the DC area and nationwide. Amber is also interacts frequently with the media, having done numerous live television interviews, media features for NASA, and has appeared on PBS NOVA, National Geographic, the History Channel, Spike TV, and in the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon's "Hubble Gotchu" segment. She very much enjoys interacting with the public.
Amber lives in Glenn Dale, MD, with her husband Matt and her two silly Great Danes and one cat. Her love of all things air and space prompted her to become a pilot; she earned her Private Pilot's license in early 2013. She has been an active yoga practitioner for years, and teaches a volunteer yoga class weekly. Amber is very involved in community and volunteer work, and loves to cook.