{xki6u Leah Fulmer

About Me

Until recently, I was a graduate student at the University of Washington, conducting research at the intersection of astronomy and data science. I chose to leave my graduate program because I found the academic environment to be incogruent with my health and well-being. Now, I combine my deep knowledge of astronomy with my budding artistic exploration to create fun, creative modes of public astronomy education. On the whole, I engage in interdisciplinary collaboration and methodological research from an astronomer's point of view. Explore research.

I received my bachelor's degree in Astronomy and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, during which time I studied abroad in Santiago, Chile (University of Chile, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile). Throughout my undergraduate career, I conducted research at Yale University, the University of Chile, and the Space Telescope Science Institute. Before starting my graduate studies, I held a position as a Data Reduction Specialist at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. Explore CV.

Scientific exploration is inseparable from the scientists who do the exploring, and thus I hold collaboration, inclusion, and care as central values within my scientific practice. I am always interested to discuss and enact strategies for making astronomy a safe field for marginalized folks, and generally examining the power dynamics inherent to our identities and systems. I am particularly interested in thinking about friendship as a form of networking, and navigating collaborations with these values. Explore community.

In my free time, I enjoy dancing, journaling, reading, and knitting. I like to think and talk about how we relate to ourselves and each other. Explore interests.


Time Series Anomaly Detection in Astronomy +

Advisors: Dr. Daniela Huppenkothen + Prof. Mario Juric

Every time we observe the Universe in a new way, we discover new phenomena. The Vera C. Rubin Observatory - previously referred to as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) - promises to observe the largest area of the sky, more frequently than any other telescope in astronomical history, with sensitive optical instrumentation. With more observations than humans could ever identify by eye in a lifetime, automatic classification becomes a vital element in navigating the next generation of astronomical research. My objective is to develop a flexible anomaly detection algorithm for heterogeneous time series data (e.g. sparse, irregular, heteroscedastic), beginning with a simulated data set developed for the Kaggle Photometric LSST Astronomical Time-Series Classification Challenge (PLAsTiCC). Earthseed references the novel Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler.

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Cosmic High Noon: Declining Galactic Star Formation Rates

Advisors: Dr. Stephanie Juneau + Dr. Mark Dickinson

As a Data Reduction Specialist at NOAO, I investigated how galactic star-formation rates evolve with redshift (z < 1.5), internal galactic properties, and environmental conditions in order to understand the physical causes responsible for the decline of the cosmic star formation history. My role specifically involved performing multi-object spectroscopic data reduction using an interactive graphical interface pipeline in order to produce a catalog of redshifts for our sample. Image source: Madau & Dickinson (2014).

Incoming! Evolutionary Trends in Virgo Cluster Galaxies

Advisor: Prof. Jeff Kenney

As a Yale Dorrit Hoffleit Research Scholar, I explored systematic trends in the star formation rates of Virgo Cluster galaxies to ultimately investigate the effects of cosmological structure on galaxy evolution. I first merged ultraviolet-through-infrared archival photometry for 50 Virgo galaxies (data from SDSS, 2MASS, Spitzer, and Herschel), then modeled the observational data with theoretical SEDs (models from Magphys). We found that in the mass range 109-1010 M☉, the galaxies with the highest specific star formation rates were all HI-rich, subject to ongoing gas accretion, and located at the outskirts of the cluster. Our findings reveal HI accretion as a potentially significant stage of infalling galaxy evolution. Poster.

NGC 5523: An Isolated Product of Soft Galaxy Mergers?

Advisor: Prof. Jay Gallagher

My first undergraduate project focused on the morphology and evolution of isolated galaxies, which generally offer key insight into the formation of the first galaxy systems. The galaxy NGC 5523 demonstrates a paradoxical combination of global isolation (no massive companions) and asymmetrical features indicative of past interactions. By analyzing multi-band images from Spitzer and WIYN, we found that the asymmetrical features in NGC 5523 most likely arose from one or more non-disruptive mergers between it and former companion galaxies. Our result challenges the typical narrative that isolated galaxies evolve with few galactic interactions. (Fulmer, Gallagher, & Kotulla, 2017, A&A, 598, A119).

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Stars + Gas

Photometry of stellar populations associated with the SMC-SGS 1

Advisor: Prof. Jay Gallagher

The SMC Wing exhibits ongoing, active star formation despite a distinctive lack of dense interstellar matter, or resources from which to form stars. For my Honors Undergraduate Senior Thesis, I sought to uncover the driving forces behind such intriguing star formation through an extended photometric study of the SMC Wing. Our photometric, spectral, and spatial analyses reveal evidence for a significant star-forming event that occurred ~25-40 Myr ago, creating ~104 M☉ of new stars and initiating sequential star formation that continues into the present. The spatial and temporal distribution of young stars in the SMC Wing indicate that star formation proceeded slowly and consistently over millions of years. Continued stellar production within the volume of SGS 1 suggests a stochastic star formation mode in which molecular clouds survive shell passage, slow the expansion of the shell, and only later form stars. Poster (AAS Chambliss Award, Honorable Mention).

Star Stuff: Physical Properties of Molecular Clouds in the Magellanic Bridge

Advisor: Prof. Monica Rubio

At the University of Chile, I characterized physical properties of molecular clouds in the Magellanic Bridge to ultimately reevaluate the necessary conditions for stellar birth. Using observations from ALMA and APEX, I analyzed sub-millimeter CO emission via CASA Gaussian fit distribution modeling. Our results estimated the size, temperature, luminosity, and mass of clouds covering one-third of the Bridge, thus establishing a foundation to interrogate stellar evolution within low-density environments. From my experience in Chile, I not only learned the technical skills of radio observation and spectral data reduction, but also engaged in scientific collaboration with one of the leading countries in observational astronomy.

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Telescopes + Software

Software Development for the Hubble and James Webb Space Telescopes

Advisor: Dr. Mark Giuliano

With the STScI Space Astronomy Summer Program (SASP), I developed software for the HST and JWST SPIKE observation scheduling systems. Specifically, I created a dynamic visualization tool for the analysis of temporal scheduling constraints, as primarily used by SPIKE Developers and SPIKE Users. The tool is designed to be lightweight (fast, computationally inexpensive), interactive (supporting zooming, scrolling, dynamic time information displays), and independent (producing a stand-alone web page) for optimized functionality and communication among users. Summer Student Symposium Presentation (55:15 - 1:04:34).

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Engaging with both my astronomical and public community is an essential part of my scientific practice. Through workshops, public outreach, and open resources, I hope to contribute to making astronomical research more inclusive and accessible.


Know Your Power Project + Special Session

Collaborators: Lauren Chambers + Dra. Nicole Cabrera Salazar

The Know Your Power Project seeks to understand the distribution of power throughout the academic ecosystem in order to bolster greater inclusion in astronomy. By focusing our attention on the many paths toward positive change as well as our collective knowledge, we hope to a) provide a list of concrete actions for creating inclusive spaces and b) lay the groundwork for sustainable collaboration with regard to equity and inclusion. At the 233rd AAS Meeting, my collaborators and I led a Special Session in which we first spoke with a panel of astronomy at various career stages about the types of power that they find accessible in their position. We then facilitated small group discussions about understanding our own power, how we hold ourselves accountable, and how we can work with astronomers at different career stages than ourselves to achieve our collective goals. We were subsequently invited to host a similar workshop for students at the Space Telescope Science Institute. Main Document.

How to Build & Publish a Website in 60 Minutes

Collaborators: Steven Stetzler + Lauren Chambers

Personal websites also provide a space for scientists to a) host and share analysis tools and open source software, b) share accessible explanations of their own research with the public through the practice of blogging, and c) enable instructors to move their course materials online into an open and shareable space, enhancing the online presence and shareability of their teaching materials. At the 233rd AAS Meeting, my collaborators and I hosted a website-building workshop, providing personal assistance and instruction to AAS members in website development, enabling them to successfully build and publish a personal website within 60 minutes. Tutorial.

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Falling with Style: How Astronomy’s Most Intriguing Discoveries Happen by Accident

Astronomy on Tap Seattle

Every time we observe the Universe in a new way, we discover new phenomena. Let's consider the historical connections between groundbreaking instrumentation and their unforeseen revolutionary discoveries, as well as explore the surprises that a new generation of time domain surveys may have in store.

Data-Driven Astronomy in the 2020s & Beyond

Astronomy on Tap Seattle

Astronomy faces an impending data revolution with the advent of massive 'time domain surveys': telescopes that repeatedly observe the entire night sky, detecting cosmic evolution over the course of weeks, months, and years. One of these surveys, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) promises to observe billions of objects over the next decade. This tsunami of data collection will create opportunities to explore astrophysical frontiers; however, to harness these opportunities, astronomers must systematically identify noteworthy objects from among the tsunami. Talk.

Seeking out Mentors and Surviving Disappointment

Get This Girl a Job Podcast

I was interviewed by my friend Katie Melbourne for her podcast, Get This Girl a Job, in which she interviews recent college graduates about how they navigated their first professional jobs. We discussed advice for seeking out mentors and building relationships with people that can help you acheive your goals. Podcast episode.

Teen Astronomy Cafe

National Optical Astronomy Observatory

While at NOAO, I participated in the Teen Astronomy Cafe Program, which leads high scool students through a series of lectures and computational activities that explore astronomical research questions. Together with Dr. Stephanie Juneau, I co-wrote and co-lead a Jupyter Notebook activity that taught students about spectroscopy, redshift, and large-scale structure through the incorporation of real SDSS data samples.

Expanding Your Horizons Conference

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Expanding Your Horizons Conference is a recurring one-day event that introduces middle school-age girls to career opportunities within STEM. With the graduate student organization Women of Wisconsin Strengthening Astronomy (WOWSA), we designed a series of activities that highlighted astronomical techniques at distinct wavelength regimes. I personally engaged girls in a discussion about infrared light and the capabilities of infrared telescopes.

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All of these resources are intended to be livings documents, to which anyone can contribute. If you do make a contribution, please feel free to add your name and a link to your website among the list of contributors!

Questions for Graduate Programs

AstroBetter Contribution

An extensive compilation of questions for prospective graduate students to consider when deciding which graduate school to attend. The questions originated from this Twitter thread by Dra. Nicole Cabrera Salazar and this Twitter thread by Nadirah Farah Foley, and were later supplemented with individual contributions. Document.

How to Land a Post-Baccalaureate Research Experience

AstroBetter Contribution

My post-baccalaureate research experience gave me an opportunity to take time off from school, discern what I wanted to study in graduate school, and further develop my programming skills. Given some of the difficulties that I found in searching for post-baccalaureate positions, I organized the following resources for other students who may want to explore post-baccalaureate research. Whole document including resillience resources and avenues to maintain confidence during periods of rejection (or anytime, really).

Internship Information for Astronomy Majors

Open Document

Summer internships offer an important opportunity to explore astronomical research, experience various academic institutions, and travel [inter]nationally. They often include a stipend, travel support to the location of the internship, as well as funding to attend a subsequent conference, through which to present your work. Here are various resources for finding summer internships within astronomy, both those funded by the National Science Foundation and those available to international students. Document.

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Personal Interests


  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
  • Pleasure Activism by adrienne maree brown
  • Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • all about love by bell hooks
  • Faces at the Bottom of the Well by Derrick Bell


  • All My Relations: Matika Wilbur (Swinomish and Tulalip) and Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation) discuss their relationships to land, culture, and one another, centering topics that relate to Native peoples.
  • Self-care with Drs. Sarah: Prof. Sarah Ballard and Dr. Sarah Rugheimer share their stories of navigating academia, and astronomy in particular.
  • Witch Please: A fortnightly podcast in which two lady scholars talk about the Harry Potter world.
  • Where Should We Begin?: Esther Perel brings listeners behind the closed doors of her therapy practice to explore the issues that impact us all in relationships.
  • Woke Dr. Who: A podcast about race and representation in Doctor Who with an asian lady from DC and a black lady from Baltimore.

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Name Description Price
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Name Description Price
Item One Ante turpis integer aliquet porttitor. 29.99
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