Student Profile: Dakotah Tyler

July 19, 2019

Dakotah Tyler Headshot

DAKOTAH TYLER (B5 Affiliate)

University of Cincinnati | Cincinnati, OH | 2020


Academic Major: Physics (Astrophysics)


Hometown: Indianapolis, IN


“I played Division I football at the University of Kentucky and graduated with a BS in Community & Leadership Development before returning to school to pursue a passion in Astronomy.”


Tell us…


What is the topic of your research this summer and what are your related goals?


“A big hurdle in exoplanet research is accounting for stellar contamination in exoplanet observations. I study the Helium I 1083 nm line in the upper atmosphere of gas giants closely orbiting their host stars (Hot Jupiters) to probe for atmospheric escape. Absorption at this line occurs in both the atmospheres of the stars, specifically sun-like stars, as well as in the atmospheres of planets that we are trying to observe. During a transit, some of the stellar photons will be absorbed by the Helium in the stellar chromosphere at 1083 nm, and as the photons continue towards Earth they will go through another round of absorption as they pass through the atmosphere of the exoplanet. This shared feature needs to be disentangled when analyzing spectra from transit observations. By better understanding how the Solar Helium I 1083 nm line varies in strength and shape, over time scales ranging from hours to decades, we can begin to account for the stellar components of the Helium absorptions we observe.”


What area of astronomy fascinates you most or brings out the most passion in you?


Exoplanet research does it for me. My oldest memory related to astronomy is an image of Jupiter against the black backdrop of space. These islands of matter and their incredible variety and diversity have always astonished me.”


What do you aspire to do?


“I want to continue pursuing my passion for astronomy, eventually earning a doctoral degree. I also want to be active in the movement to diversify the field and increase accessibility and exposure for communities that are underrepresented. I believe astronomy has a valuable perspective to offer all people and I believe that creativity necessarily lacks when diversity is lacking.” 


What significant lessons have you learned this summer so far?


“I have gotten a better feel for the daily routine (or lack thereof) of a research scientist. I have also been developing other important skills, especially collaborating with and communicating my research to other professionals. With the help of Banneker Institute, I have become more well-rounded and more knowledgeable about social issues and inequalities, systemic in nature, that plague all professional fields and all areas of life. Understanding these issues and their roots is essential for anyone that means to address them. I am becoming better at communicating and navigating difficult subjects in a diverse group of people.”


What parts of your experience with Banneker would you like to see modeled in the broader astronomy community?


“I believe it is absolutely essential to spend time learning about the seeds from which racism sprouts and learning how race continues to play an integral role in this country as it has since its birth. It seems to me that any efforts to resolve issues with diversity should be built on a foundation of understanding why disparities and other problems exist in the first place. The first month of discussions in the social science seminar (S3) were invaluable to me and would be to others.”


What would you say to a student who is considering applying to Banneker in the future?

“We study the Universe because we are passionate about figuring how it all works or came to be—it's a passion that we all share. I was lucky enough to be invited to join some of the social science discussions because I actively sought opportunities to spread my passion for this wonderful field of study to communities that may be underexposed. There have been few educational opportunities in my life that I have enjoyed as much as affiliating with Banneker Institute to better understand our current social structure. The program offers not just an opportunity to develop as an astronomer, but also an awareness, understanding, and preparation for some of the challenges that will lie ahead for any underrepresented person interested in this career path.”