Prof. Shelley Wright

Shelley Wright’s research focuses on understanding how galaxies form and evolve over cosmic time. She makes most of her observations with integral-field spectrographs, coupled with adaptive-optics systems on the largest telescopes in the world. These high-resolution observations reveal the internal motions and chemical make-up of high-redshift galaxies that formed one to three billions years after the Big Bang.

In addition to her observational research, Wright also designs and builds innovative astronomical instruments. In addition to upgrading the OSIRIS instrument on the Keck I telescope, she is Project Scientist for the Infrared Imaging Spectrograph. IRIS will be the first adaptive-optics instrument on the Thirty Meter Telescope when it begins operation later this decade.

She is also Principal Investigator for an instrument designed to answer one of the biggest questions in astronomy: Are we alone? In 2014, Wright and her collaborators achieved first light with the Near Infrared Optical SETI (NIROSETI) instrument. SETI, or the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, has for decades been conducted at radio wavelengths. NIROSETI is designed to detect extremely short pulses of laser light that can be many thousands of times brighter than a star.

Wright received her PhD from UCLA, and joined the Dunlap Institute in 2011 as an Assistant Professor.

In 2015, she became an Assistant Professor in the Physics Department of the Center for Astrophysics & Space Sciences, University of California, San Diego.

Image credit: Laurie Hatch