March 22, 2023

Praise for UC San Diego Postdocs, Our Research Pros and Meaningful Mentors

By Office of Communications

Praise for UC

San Diego - - UC San Diego’s vibrant research community wouldn’t be the same without the valuable contributions made by our postdoctoral researchers. Postdocs are scholars who have received their doctoral degree and are hired to help complete research and mentor current graduate students. 


“When I was a graduate student, I worked closely with postdocs in my lab, and I picked up a lot of extremely useful research—and life—tips from them,” said postdoc Nuttida Rungratsameetaweemana. “Now as a postdoc myself, I enjoy passing that knowledge and advice along to the next generation of scientists while building upon my research skills through exciting research projects.”


“A vibrant postdoc community exists as well, largely due to the Postdoctoral Association (PDA)” explained Viktoria Steck, chair of the PDA. “It’s all about enhancing the postdoc life at UC San Diego,” Steck said. “I’m happy to have found a support system and a great group of friends among them.”


Rungratsameetaweemana and Steck are just two of 1,300 postdoc researchers at UC San Diego. Learn more about a few of our postdocs: 


Christopher Theissen, NASA Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow and UC Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow | UC San Diego Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences


Christopher Theissen wasn’t always interested in astronomy—he just knew physics intrigued him. As an undergrad student, he would often sit in on introductory physics lectures at Stanford University, where his then girlfriend, and now wife, studied. Still, it wasn’t until he saw the Hubble Deep Field image—a landmark photograph showing nearly 3,000 very young galaxies in a small area—that he decided to pursue astrophysics. 


“I was hooked on the beauty and expansiveness of the universe,” Theissen said. “And my first few nights on a telescope—in my case, the Palomar 200-inch telescope—were extremely zen. I’ve been an observational astronomer ever since.”


Theissen grew up in sunny Ramona, in San Diego’s East County. He attended San Diego Mesa College before transferring to UC San Diego in 2007, where he double majored in physics and mathematics. Theissen worked full-time during his undergraduate career, first as a quick oil change mechanic and then as a consulting intern. Still, it was his studies that drove him and his passions; Theissen moved to Massachusetts to pursue both a master’s and a Ph.D in astronomy from Boston University. 


NOTE: In November of 2017, Dr. Theissen returned to Mesa College to present “Low Mass Stars and Exoplanets” as a part of the San Diego Mesa College STEM Lecture Series.


“I am interested in searching for and studying worlds around the smallest stars in our galaxy and exploring their habitability,” Thiessen explained when asked about his research at the UC San Diego Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences. Those stars, called M dwarfs or red dwarfs, are very faint and have less than half of the Sun’s mass, but number approximately 75% of the stars in our galaxy. 


He continued, “Over the past decade, we’ve found that red dwarfs tend to host two to five terrestrial planets per star; we still don’t know if they are habitable because of the extreme amounts of UV and X-ray radiation from the stars during the earlier parts of their lives.”


After completing his postdoctoral fellowship, Theissen hopes to become a faculty member at a research-oriented university, where he can pursue his research interests and inspire future generations of astronomers and scientists. 


Read the full article here.


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