While our understanding of galaxy formation and evolution has increased enormously in recent years, some of the most important issues are still largely unknown. In particular, the characterization of low mass, young galaxies in the early universe remains one of the frontiers of astrophysics. Although we cannot analyze their spectra until the advent of future ground and space-based telescopes, we can learn a great deal about their physical conditions using plausible analogs the more nearby universe. The PI will therefore identify and study in detail the youngest and lowest mass galaxies at z~2, a redshift at which the universe was only 20% of its current age, but at which galaxies are still bright enough for detailed study. The PI will lead a comprehensive campaign to measure metallicities and ionization parameters in low-mass galaxies at z~2 from near-infrared spectra; determine the faint-end of the mass-metallicity relation at z~2; and study gravitationally lensed galaxies.
The PI's work will be centered at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (UWM), an institution with a large undergraduate population in an urban environment, and one with little previous presence in astronomy. The PI is one of the faculty advisors of the undergraduate astronomy club, which meets weekly and focuses on giving students the opportunity to participate in real astronomical research through radio searches for pulsars. She will also play a leading role in increasing the presence of astronomy at UWM through curriculum development, outreach, and mentoring of students from under-represented populations.