Sarah Loebman is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Society of Fellows and an Assistant Professor of Astronomy at the University of Michigan. She holds a PhD in Astronomy from the University of Washington, where she concentrated on Galactic structure and dynamics. Sarah’s most recent publications utilize Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) data to determine the shape of the Milky Way’s dark matter halo. To do this, Sarah applied the cylindrically symmetric form of Jeans equations to stellar halo data; Sarah quantified the robustness of this technique using a N-body+SPH simulation from University of Washington’s N-body Shop. Using Jeans equations is a statistical approach to solving the gravitation potential problem; it relies on a large amount of stellar kinematic data to generate expansive acceleration maps. The component nature of the resultant maps allowed Sarah and her collaborators to reject several Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND) models as an alternative to dark matter and point toward an oblate dark matter halo structure within ~20 kpc of the Galactic center.
Broadly speaking, Sarah’s research deals with scientific queries on Big Data that is generated by surveys or simulations. As such, she enjoys collaborating across fields within astronomy (working both on theory and observations) and across domains (enjoying a deep collaboration with computer scientists in the Database Group at University of Washington). Sarah is also strongly committed to making astronomy accessible to all both through teaching and leading projects such as Astronomy for the Sight Impaired. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Arts from Cornell University where she graduated with a degree in Asian Studies.