Department of Astronomy Center for Radiophysics & Space Research

Matt Hankins

Current graduate student in Infrared Studies

Matt Hankins is a second year PhD student working with Professor Terry Herter on the Faint Object InfraRed CAmera (FORCAST) instrument for the SOFIA Telescope. SOFIA is a modified Boeing 747SP that housess a 3m infrared telescope. Matt participated in the delivery of the FORCAST instrument to NASA. He described it as an ‘incredible experience,’ and that ‘going on observing runs onboard SOFIA is really a unique experience.’ He looks forward to going back out on observing runs in the coming year.

He is interested in massive evolved stars and young stars as well as the galactic center which is home to many of these kinds of objects. Matt currently works on studying infrared emission in the center of our galaxy (the inner ~100 light years near the supermassive black hole Sgr A*). The central part of our galaxy has many interesting properties that are different from other parts of the galaxy. Matt is currently studying a set of evolved dusty Wolf-Rayet (WR) stars. The stars are interesting because they are extremely luminous in the infrared (IR) compared with other WR stars. Matt’s work focuses on understanding the dust formation mechanism and the mass loss of the stars to understand evolutionary state of the stars. In addition to this work, Matt is also studying a nearby HII region. By studying the IR emission in this region it is possible look for evidence of embedded protostars which may be contributing to the heating of the dust in the region.

Outside of academics, Matt enjoys hanging out with other grad students and participating in the Astronomy Grads Network (AGN) (http://grads.astro.cornell.edu/index.html) activities. Matt participates in outreach activities like Ask an Astronomer, Museum in the Dark, and Focus for Teens. Matt is also a bit of a movie buff and also enjoys music, sports, and trivia nights at the Big Red Barn.

When applying for graduate programs, Matt was drawn to Cornell because of the research opportunities offered as well as the welcoming environment in the department. “I’ve really enjoyed my time here at Cornell. Initially, I was really interested in the numerous research opportunities available within the department. Also, I found that people in the department are generally friendly and very approachable.”