Veronica Amber Allen

Veronica Amber Allen

  • POSTDOCTORAL FELLOW
  • 301.286.0575
  • NASA/GSFC
  • Mail Code: 691
  • Greenbelt , MD 20771
  • Employer: UNIVERSITIES SPACE RESEARCH ASSOCIATION
  • Brief Bio

    I was born in the US but left when I was 18 to pursue a physics degree in the UK. Due to a lack of funding and high international student tuition, I had to quit after the first year. I then spent five years working as a seamstress, waitress, and barista before beginning the BSc/MPhys program at the University of Leeds. I finished my MPhys in Physics and Astrophysics in 2013 with my master's work on infrared observations of MYSO's supervised by Prof. Rene Oudmaijer. I started my PhD at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands in 2014. I took up an NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) fellowship at NASA GSFC in July 2018 and am excited to begin my work here!

    I am deeply passionate about astronomy and science outreach with the main goal of letting people know that science really is for everyone from every background.

    Check out my NASA Q&A here: https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/people/321/veronica-allen/

    Research Interests

    High-mass star formation

    I use sub-millimeter observatories like ALMA and NOEMA to observe regions in the Milky Way where stars at least 8 times the mass of our sun are forming.  They interact with their surroundings in an extreme way which makes them an interesting subject of study.  I am involved in projects searching for high-mass Keplerian disks to understand if high-mass stars can form in a similar way to low-mass stars.

    Astrochemistry in star-forming regions

    Using ALMA observations, I study how young stars affect the chemistry of their surroundings.  The chemical composition can be compared with statistical models of astrochemistry to understand the physical conditions and the age of the region.

    In the past, I have used chemical models to determine the relative ages of young high-mass stars within a shared disk in order to explain a differing chemistry between them.  I continue to use similar models to understand sources in the Magellanic clouds and high- and low-mass star forming regions within the MIlky Way.

    The formation of formamide (NH2CHO) and other prebiotic molecules

    Formamide (NH2CHO) is an important astrobiological molecule because it contains a peptide bond (O=C-N) which makes it a likely precursor to amino acids and proteins. There is disagreement between astrochemists about how formamide is formed in space.  On one hand, it could be formed on icy dust grains by adding hydrogen atoms to HNCO.  On the other, it could form in warm gas around a young star from reactions between H2CO and NH2 .  Both sides of this argument have observational, laboratory, and theoretical evidence for these formation routes.

    In my work, I have observed several star-forming regions and compared the emission from formamide, HNCO, and H2CO.  I will continue this work at Goddard with new ALMA observations coming soon!

    Selected Public Outreach

    Astronomy/stargazing course for small children 3 / 2018 - Present

    I developed a basic astronomy/stargazing course for small children (ages 4-8) first held in March 2018 for six classes at two local (Dutch) primary schools. I use an interactive, activity-based educational style to teach the students about the phases of the moon, the day/night cycle, and introduce them to the solar system.  I have now taught this lesson for two elementary school classes in the US.

    Skype a Scientist 2017 - Present

    I am regularly involved in the "Skype a Scientist" program, where I have connected with several classrooms teaching them a bit about my work and about my unusual career path.

    Volunteer for Open days at The Blaauw Observatory 2 / 2014 - 6 / 2018

    The Blaauw Observatory was built in 2008 to provide the students at the University of Groningen with practical optical observing experience, and has the additional purpose of public education during our three annual open evenings and several “flexible open evenings”. The observatory houses the Gratama telescope, a 40 cm (~16 in.) Ritchey-Chrétien reflector and one of the largest optical telescopes in the Netherlands. Alongside public tours of the observatory, the open evenings host an inflatable mobile planetarium with several different shows, public talks for children and adults, and a crafting corner which has featured several different astronomy themed projects.  I volunteered at 18 public events giving talks, running the children's program, and helping with preparation and setup.
     

    Zpannend Zernike 10 / 2014 - 10 / 2017

    I was deeply involved in Zpannend Zernike, an annual event that is part of the Dutch initiative “Weekend of Science”. In 2016, I gave a public “Ask an Astronomer” talk on Star formation & Astrochemistry, explaining the theory behind these two topics, spectroscopy, and sub-millimeter interferometry. Following my talk was a Q&A session where I answered questions from high-school-aged students and adults. In 2017 for Zpannend Zernike, I wrote and filmed a social media spot (https://www.facebook.com/zpannendzernike/videos/794787564026431/) to entice our English-speaking audience to visit.

    Open day for Primary School Teachers 7 / 2017 - 7 / 2017

    My biggest independent project was organizing an open day for 30 elementary school teachers in July 2017. I organized guided tours of the observatory and the labs at SRON, where space and ground telescope instrumentation is designed and manufactured in the  Netherlands. During this open day, I also gave a short lesson about the sun and our solar system.
     

    Girls' Day 4 / 2016 - 4 / 2016

    In April 2016, I volunteered for “Girls' Day”, a Dutch initiative connecting high school aged Dutch girls with female scientists to inspire them to work in science. To accomplish the goal of inspiring more girls to study STEM subjects, this initiative attempts to humanize scientists and make the goal of a career in science seem more accessible. I spoke to a group of girls via Skype who asked me questions about my interests, my family, and my scientific work.
     

    March for Science - Amsterdam 1 / 2017 - 6 / 2018

    As lead coordinator for Groningen, I was responsible for advertising the march throughout Groningen on social media and throughout the university and city, overseeing the poster design session for Groningen participants, and organizing transportation to the march for 25 local participants to Amsterdam. I was interviewed for 3 different newspapers including the Dutch national news (NOS). I remained involved with this project as it transitioned to “Stand up for Science”, a foundation for improving public engagement with science.
     

    Awards

    ALMA Ambassador Postdoctoral Fellows program
    March 2019
    One of 15 postdocs trained to organize and run an ALMA proposal workshop in the USA.

    Scriven Bolton Award (University of Leeds)
    2010
    Awarded to the first year BSc student with the highest marks in astronomy (£1250 prize).

    Leids Kerkhoven-Bosscha Fonds (LKBF) grants
    2015-2017
    Competitively awarded grants for travel to conferences and working visits.
    €1000 in Spring 2015, €1500 in Spring 2016, and €400 in Spring 2017.

     

    Successful Observing Proposals as PI
    8 hours NOrthern Extended Millimeter Array (NOEMA), Plateau de Bure, France (Spring 2016)
    4 hours IRAM 30m (sub)millimeter telescope, Pico Valeta, Spain plus 1 night preparation
    Project title: “Disentangling outflows in massive star forming regions”
    Investigators: Allen, V., van der Tak, F.F.S., Cesaroni, R., Sánchez-Monge, Á., & Beltrán, M.T.
    These observations serve as a follow-up to our high spatial resolution ALMA study of two high-mass star-forming regions. Both of these regions have multiple sub-sources, so observations with a larger field of view were needed to detect the putative outflows in these regions and constrain the number of sub-sources.

    25.7 hours Atacama Large (sub)Millimeter Array (ALMA), Chanjanator, Chile (to be observed 2019)
    Project title: "The formation of interstellar formamide"
    Investigators: Allen, V., van der Tak, F. F. S., Charnley, S.
    These observations will investigate the chemical origin of NH2CHO and seek to detect other pre-biotic molecules.

    Education

    PhD, Astronomy
    Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, University of Groningen, the Netherlands
    2014-2018
    Title: “Organic chemistry around young high-mass stars: observational and theoretical”
    Supervisor: Prof. Floris F. S. van der Tak


    Master of Physics/Bachelor of Science (MPhys/BSc), Physics with Astrophysics
    University of Leeds, United Kingdom
    2009-2013
    Class II Division i
    Master's thesis title: “Accretion rates and CO disk analysis in massive young stellar objects”
    Master's thesis supervisor: Prof. Rene D. Oudmaijer
    Competitively selected 8 week summer project as part of BSc (2011)
    Title: “Analysis of Herbig Ae/Be spectra to determine relationships to accretion rates”
     

    Teaching Experience

    Teaching assistant, Introduction to Astronomy (STISTK-10) at the University of Groningen 2015-2016
    Held problem-solving sessions with short overview lectures and assisted students with problem sets in this first-year undergraduate course. I taught 12 sessions per year covering all aspects of basic astronomy including star and planet formation, the stellar life cycle, galactic dynamics, and cosmology. Integrated multimedia and a flipped classroom approach to my sessions.


     

    Professional Societies

    American Astronomical Society (AAS), 2016 - Present
    Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 2017 - Present
    Dutch Astronomers’ Club (NAC), 2014 - Present
    American Chemical Society - Astrochemistry division, 2018 - Present

    Positions/Employment

    7/2018 - Present

    NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) Fellow

    USRA, NASA GSFC

    Publications

    Refereed

    Beltrán, M. T., R. Cesaroni, V. M. Rivilla, et al. Á. Sánchez-Monge, L. Moscadelli, A. Ahmadi, V. Allen, H. Beuther, S. Etoka, D. Galli, R. Galván-Madrid, C. Goddi, K. G. Johnston, P. D. Klaassen, A. Kölligan, R. Kuiper, M. S. Kumar, L. T. Maud, J. C. Mottram, T. Peters, P. Schilke, L. Testi, F. van der Tak, and C. M. Walmsley. 2018. "Accelerating infall and rotational spin-up in the hot molecular core G31.41+0.31." Astronomy & Astrophysics, 615: A141 [10.1051/0004-6361/201832811]

    Allen, V., F. F. van der Tak, and C. Walsh. 2018. "Complex cyanides as chemical clocks in hot cores." Astronomy & Astrophysics, 616: A67 [10.1051/0004-6361/201732553]

    Moscadelli, L., V. M. Rivilla, R. Cesaroni, et al. M. T. Beltrán, Á. Sánchez-Monge, P. Schilke, J. C. Mottram, A. Ahmadi, V. Allen, H. Beuther, T. Csengeri, S. Etoka, D. Galli, C. Goddi, K. G. Johnston, P. D. Klaassen, R. Kuiper, M. S. Kumar, L. T. Maud, T. Möller, T. Peters, F. Van der Tak, and S. Vig. 2018. "The feedback of an HC HII region on its parental molecular core." Astronomy & Astrophysics, 616: A66 [10.1051/0004-6361/201832680]

    Maud, L., R. Cesaroni, M. Kumar, et al. F. van der Tak, V. Allen, M. Hoare, P. Klaassen, D. Harsono, M. Hogerheijde, A. S'anchez-Monge, P. Schilke, A. Ahmadi, M. Beltr'an, H. Beuther, T. Csengeri, S. Etoka, G. Fuller, R. Galv'an-Madrid, C. Goddi, T. Henning, K. Johnston, R. Kuiper, S. Lumsden, L. Moscadelli, J. Mottram, T. Peters, V. Rivilla, L. Testi, S. Vig, W. de Wit, and H. Zinnecker. 2018. "Chasing discs around O-type (proto)stars - ALMA evidence for an SiO disc and disc wind from G17.64+0.16." ArXiv e-prints, (Accepted)

    Cesaroni, R., Á. Sánchez-Monge, M. T. Beltrán, et al. K. G. Johnston, L. T. Maud, L. Moscadelli, J. C. Mottram, A. Ahmadi, V. A. Allen, H. Beuther, T. Csengeri, S. Etoka, G. A. Fuller, D. Galli, R. Galván-Madrid, C. Goddi, T. Henning, M. G. Hoare, P. D. Klaassen, R. Kuiper, M. S. Kumar, S. Lumsden, T. Peters, V. M. Rivilla, P. Schilke, L. Testi, F. van der Tak, S. Vig, C. M. Walmsley, and H. Zinnecker. 2017. "Chasing discs around O-type (proto)stars: Evidence from ALMA observations." Astronomy & Astrophysics, 602: A59 [10.1051/0004-6361/201630184]

    Allen, V., F. F. van der Tak, Á. Sánchez-Monge, R. Cesaroni, and M. T. Beltrán. 2017. "Chemical segregation in hot cores with disk candidates." Astronomy & Astrophysics, 603: A133 [10.1051/0004-6361/201629118]

    Talks, Presentations and Posters

    Invited

    Children and your PhD

    5 / 2017

    I was an invited panelist at the "I, Scientist" conference discussing work-life balance.

    High Mass Star Formation

    3 / 2017

    An overview talk about high-mass star formation in general and a brief summary of my work for the early career scientists of SRON.

    Other

    Complex cyanides as a chemical clock: Explaining cyanide segregation in G35.20-0.74N

    10 / 2017

    A colloquium talk at the University of Leeds describing my observational and theoretical analysis of G35.20-0.74N.  Also presented at the Dutch Astronomy Network 2 bi-annual meeting in Groningen.

    Small Scale Chemical Segregation within Keplerian Disk Candidate G35.20N

    10 / 2016

    An overview of my observational work on G35.20-0.74N given at the Dutch Astronomers Network 2 bi-annual meeting in Leiden, the Netherlands.

    Ask an Astronomer: Star formation and Astrochemistry

    10 / 2016

    A public talk and Q&A session at the annual science event Zpannend Zernike in Groningen, the Netherlands.

    Small Scale Chemical Segregation Within Keplerian Disk Candidate G35.20-0.74N

    6 / 2016

    A 5-minute talk outlining the problem of chemical segregation in G35.20 at the Summer AAS meeting.

    The Curious Chemistry of G35.20-0.74N

    6 / 2016

    Colloquium given at: University of Leeds, UK; IRAM Grenoble, France; California Institute of Technology, USA; NASA Ames, USA

    Brief Bio

    I was born in the US but left when I was 18 to pursue a physics degree in the UK. Due to a lack of funding and high international student tuition, I had to quit after the first year. I then spent five years working as a seamstress, waitress, and barista before beginning the BSc/MPhys program at the University of Leeds. I finished my MPhys in Physics and Astrophysics in 2013 with my master's work on infrared observations of MYSO's supervised by Prof. Rene Oudmaijer. I started my PhD at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands in 2014. I took up an NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) fellowship at NASA GSFC in July 2018 and am excited to begin my work here!

    I am deeply passionate about astronomy and science outreach with the main goal of letting people know that science really is for everyone from every background.

    Check out my NASA Q&A here: https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/people/321/veronica-allen/

    Publications

    Refereed

    Beltrán, M. T., R. Cesaroni, V. M. Rivilla, et al. Á. Sánchez-Monge, L. Moscadelli, A. Ahmadi, V. Allen, H. Beuther, S. Etoka, D. Galli, R. Galván-Madrid, C. Goddi, K. G. Johnston, P. D. Klaassen, A. Kölligan, R. Kuiper, M. S. Kumar, L. T. Maud, J. C. Mottram, T. Peters, P. Schilke, L. Testi, F. van der Tak, and C. M. Walmsley. 2018. "Accelerating infall and rotational spin-up in the hot molecular core G31.41+0.31." Astronomy & Astrophysics 615 A141 [10.1051/0004-6361/201832811]

    Allen, V., F. F. van der Tak, and C. Walsh. 2018. "Complex cyanides as chemical clocks in hot cores." Astronomy & Astrophysics 616 A67 [10.1051/0004-6361/201732553]

    Moscadelli, L., V. M. Rivilla, R. Cesaroni, et al. M. T. Beltrán, Á. Sánchez-Monge, P. Schilke, J. C. Mottram, A. Ahmadi, V. Allen, H. Beuther, T. Csengeri, S. Etoka, D. Galli, C. Goddi, K. G. Johnston, P. D. Klaassen, R. Kuiper, M. S. Kumar, L. T. Maud, T. Möller, T. Peters, F. Van der Tak, and S. Vig. 2018. "The feedback of an HC HII region on its parental molecular core." Astronomy & Astrophysics 616 A66 [10.1051/0004-6361/201832680]

    Maud, L., R. Cesaroni, M. Kumar, et al. F. van der Tak, V. Allen, M. Hoare, P. Klaassen, D. Harsono, M. Hogerheijde, A. S'anchez-Monge, P. Schilke, A. Ahmadi, M. Beltr'an, H. Beuther, T. Csengeri, S. Etoka, G. Fuller, R. Galv'an-Madrid, C. Goddi, T. Henning, K. Johnston, R. Kuiper, S. Lumsden, L. Moscadelli, J. Mottram, T. Peters, V. Rivilla, L. Testi, S. Vig, W. de Wit, and H. Zinnecker. 2018. "Chasing discs around O-type (proto)stars - ALMA evidence for an SiO disc and disc wind from G17.64+0.16." ArXiv e-prints (Accepted)

    Cesaroni, R., Á. Sánchez-Monge, M. T. Beltrán, et al. K. G. Johnston, L. T. Maud, L. Moscadelli, J. C. Mottram, A. Ahmadi, V. A. Allen, H. Beuther, T. Csengeri, S. Etoka, G. A. Fuller, D. Galli, R. Galván-Madrid, C. Goddi, T. Henning, M. G. Hoare, P. D. Klaassen, R. Kuiper, M. S. Kumar, S. Lumsden, T. Peters, V. M. Rivilla, P. Schilke, L. Testi, F. van der Tak, S. Vig, C. M. Walmsley, and H. Zinnecker. 2017. "Chasing discs around O-type (proto)stars: Evidence from ALMA observations." Astronomy & Astrophysics 602 A59 [10.1051/0004-6361/201630184]

    Allen, V., F. F. van der Tak, Á. Sánchez-Monge, R. Cesaroni, and M. T. Beltrán. 2017. "Chemical segregation in hot cores with disk candidates." Astronomy & Astrophysics 603 A133 [10.1051/0004-6361/201629118]

                                                                                                                                                                                            
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