Dr. Jeff Chilcote

While at the Dunlap Institute, Chilcote was part of the team that built the integral-field spectrograph for the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI). GPI is an extreme adaptive-optics, imaging polarimeter/integral-field spectrograph designed to directly image exoplanets—planets around other stars. GPI was commissioned in early 2014.

He continues to be part of the team monitoring beta Pic b with GPI, the first directly observed exoplanet. He made some of the first observations of beta Pic B with GPI and published the first H-band spectrum of the planet. He is also part of the Gemini Planet Imager Survey (GPIES) which is targeting some 600 stars and runs through 2017.

Chilcote was also a member of the team that developed CHARIS, the Coronagraphic High Angular Resolution Imaging Spectrograph—an adaptive-optics imaging spectrograph that achieve first light in November 2016 on the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii—and he continues as part of that collaboration.

In addition, his instrumentation focus is on lenslet-based integral-field spectrographs.

Chilcote received his PhD from UCLA in 2014. He worked in the UCLA Infrared Lab, which has built some of the premier infrared imagers and spectrographs for ground-based observatories. He became a Dunlap Fellow September 2014.

In September 2017, he left the Dunlap to become a postdoctoral fellow at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology. Currently, he is also a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Physics at the University of Notre Dame.

In January 2018, Chilcote was interviewed about the role the Dunlap and U of T played in advancing his career:

What were the highlights of your stay at the Dunlap Institute?

During my time at the Dunlap, I was able to interact with a different and unique group of individual scientists. This allowed me to expand upon my current research and to branch out into other areas by learning and interacting with groups very different from my own previous research.

The Dunlap’s Astronomical Instrumentation Summer School is a major strength of the institute. Not only because it brings in students from around the world, but because it provides Dunlap Fellows with the opportunity to design labs and teach students. This allows postdocs to hone their critical teaching and mentoring skills. The demonstration of these skills is critical for any faculty position. This combination of unique research opportunities and professional growth opportunities gives Dunlap postdocs an edge in apply for faculty positions.

What drew you to UofT and the Dunlap?

The freedom, depth of research, and opportunities offered. Very few places have the ability to provide the backing to allow one to pursue the most interesting and cutting-edge research. Plus, the Dunlap has access to the resources to turn these freedoms into realities.

How was your stay at the Dunlap helpful in your advancement into your current position?

The Dunlap provided the resources to pursue projects which I would not have been able to pursue at other institutions. This has allowed me to expand my collaboration and work with mentors and other research groups which I would not have been able to otherwise. These collaborations have allowed me to participate in projects which will be a part of my career for many years to come.

As an organization, what would you say are the Dunlap’s strengths?

The Dunlap’s funding allows it to provide freedom to fellows to pursue their own interests. Its unique position allows it to expand into new areas and explore new ideas  about teaching and research. These advances do not always succeed, but they sometimes are highly successful. A department without this freedom has less of a chance to take risks, with means less reward potential. Dunlap has the unique ability to take risks, which others can not.