I am an observational astronomer working at MIT's Haystack Observatory, where I serve as Astronomy Group Lead. I am primarily interested in star formation in the Milky Way. Most of my research is done at the upper frequency end of the radio spectrum, i.e., at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths. I am primarily using telescopes like ALMA, APEX, the IRAM 30m–telescope — and now the Haystack 37m–telescope near Boston.

I am driven by my fascination for star formation in the dark molecular clouds populating the Milky Way. One goal of my work is to develop "scaling relations" that describe the overall conditions of molecular clouds (e.g., to refine so–called "Larson relations"). One other aim is to establish "star formation relations" that allow to predict the star formation activity of a molecular cloud based on it's gas properties (such as the "Gao & Solomon relation"). I have a strong interest in instrument development for radio, millimeter, submillimeter, and far–infrared wavelengths to advance this research. I am also involved with tools for scientific visualization, computation, and analysis. I am teaching graduate and undergraduate courses. I am passionate about public outreach to diverse communities, because such programs launched me on my career path.

At the moment I am leading two large international collaborations. My Line Emission in Galaxy Observations (LEGO) project produces the first wide–field imaging line survey of all molecules observable at frequencies 85–115 GHz for a representative sample of Milky Way molecular clouds. Such work is of essential importance for the interpretation of data on distant galaxies as, e.g., collected by ALMA. My Galactic Center Molecular Cloud Survey (GCMS) is the first project that uses ALMA to systematically resolve all molecular clouds orbiting the Black Hole in the center of the Milky Way. This work tells us a lot about star formation under extreme conditions, as in the early universe and starburst galaxies.

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