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Claire Max

Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics
Director, Center for Adaptive Optics
University of California, Santa Cruz, California
Country of origin: USA

Photo of Claire Max - photo credit Laurie HatchWhat I do.
I do research on new adaptive optics systems and concepts, and I use existing adaptive optics systems at the Lick and Keck Observatories to study black holes in nearby galaxies. Adaptive optics is a method for removing optical distortions in real time. In the case of astronomy, these distortions come from turbulence in the Earth's atmosphere. In the past ten years, astronomical adaptive optics has really hit its stride, partly because of work in our Center for Adaptive Optics (funded by NSF and now by the University of California as well). I also teach both undergraduates and graduate students, and enjoy it tremendously.

What I find exciting.
I enjoy working on concepts for new adaptive optics instruments, having them tested in the lab, installing them on the telescope, and then using them to do exciting astronomy projects. Right now we are measuring the mass of two black holes in a pair of colliding galaxies.

What I wish someone had told me.
My career has taken a different turn about every ten years, which I've enjoyed a lot and which has worked out well for me. I would have liked someone to tell us young people that you don't always have to take the straight-arrow path to achieve your career goals.