Professional and Biographical Information

Degrees

Ph.D. (Astronomy), University of Arizona (2014)
M.S. (Astronomy), University of Arizona (2010)
B.A. (Physics and Japanese Studies), Middlebury College (2004) 

Personal Website

www.katefollette.com

Teaching Interests

The overarching goal of my instructional style is to provide opportunities for my students to hone their critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, and effective communication skills. All of this, of course, embedded in the rich and fascinating world of modern astronomy and astrophysics. I place a particular emphasis on the numerical skills most essential in spotting pseudoscience and misinformation, as even educated adults are often insufficiently skeptical of the numbers and graphs that they encounter in daily life. These essential “baloney detection” skills include proportional reasoning, order of magnitude estimation, and proper graphical representation of data—all of which are also critical tools for understanding astronomical principles. 

Research Interests

I use large ground-based telescopes equipped with a technology called adaptive optics that de-twinkles stars so that I can search their environs for young exoplanets (planets around other stars) and circumstellar disks (the disks of gas and dust that form planets). Using a variety of hardware and image processing techniques, I isolate the light emitted by newly-formed planets, and can even break this light into its component colors and constrain the basic properties of the planet’s atmosphere.  Although this so-called “direct imaging” technique is currently only capable of isolating light from young Jupiter analogs (already as many as a million times fainter than the stars they orbit, an act analogous to isolating the light of a firefly next to a lighthouse), my colleagues and I are actively working to push the limits of telescope, camera, and image processing technology so that we might eventually image Earth-like exoplanets.  

I am also actively engaged in STEM education research. I study the role of mathematics across the curriculum, and I am particularly interested in understanding how general education science courses can be used to improve students’ real world quantitative reasoning skills. 

Selected Publications

Sallum, S., Follette, K.B. et al. 2015, "Accreting Protoplanets in the LkCa15 Transition Disk", Nature, Vol. 527, Iss. 7578.

Follette, K.B. et al. 2015, "Asymmetric Scattered Light Adaptive Optics Imaging of the Oph IRS 48 Transitional Disk", Astrophysical Journal, 798, 132F.

Follette, K.B., et al. 2015, “The Quantitative Reasoning for College Science (QuaRCS) Assessment 1: Development and Validation”, Numeracy, Vol. 8: Iss. 2, Article 2.

Macintosh, B. et al. 2015, "Discovery and Spectroscopy of the young Jovian planet 51 Eri b with the Gemini Planet Imager", Science, 350, 6256.

Rodigas, T.J., Follette, K.B. et al. 2014, "Polarized Light Imaging of the HD 142527 Transition Disk with the Gemini Planet Imager: Duse Around the Close-In Companion", Astrophysical Journal Letters, 79, 37R

Close, L.M., Follette, K.B. et al. 2014, "Discovery of H-Alpha Emission from the Close Companion inside the Gap of Transitional Disk HD142527", Astrophysical Journal Letters, 781L, 30C.

Follette, K.B. et al. 2013, "The First Circumstellar Disk Imaged in Silhouette at Visible Wavelengths with Adaptive Optics: MagAO Imaging of Orion 218-354", Astrophysical Journal Letters, 775, L13.

Follette, K.B. et al. 2013, "The SR21 Transitional Disk Imaged in Scattered Polarized Light at H-band with Adaptive Optics", Astrophysical Journal, 767, 10F.

Follette, K.B. 2013. “The Road to Becoming an Exemplary College Science Teacher” (Invited Chapter), Exemplary College Science Teaching, Editor: Robert E Yager.

Follette, K. and McCarthy, D. 2012 “How We Serve (or Underserve) our Students Through ‘Dumbing Down’”, Mercury Magazine, Winter 2012.

Scholarly and Professional Activities

Postdoctoral Scholar, Stanford University, 2015-2016

Board Member, National Numeracy Network, 2015-2017

Instructor, Pima Community College, 2009-2014

Certificate in College Teaching, University of Arizona, 2012

Teacher, Fusion Academy, 2006-2008

Awards and Honors

NASA Sagan Postdoctoral Fellowship, Stanford University, 2016

College of Science Service Award, University of Arizona, 2013

TRIF Imaging Fellowship, University of Arizona, 2012-2013

National Finalist, NASA Famelab Astrobiology, 2012

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, University of Arizona, 2009-2012

College of Science Teaching Award, University of Arizona, 2011

National Science Foundation East Asian and Pacific Studies Fellowship, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, 2011

College of Science Fellowship, University of Arizona, 2008-2009

J. William Fulbright Fellowship, Kyoto University, 2004-2005