From Fellow to Faculty: Johanna Nagy

Former Dunlap Institute Postdoctoral Fellow Johanna Nagy was hired as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri starting in May, 2020.

For almost three years, Nagy played a pivotal role at the Dunlap Institute, working with Professor Barth Netterfield’s Ballooning Astrophysics group telescopes, SPIDER and SuperBIT.

The team at Dunlap checked in with Nagy to see how she’s doing, and congratulate her on her new role.

Congratulations on your new position as Assistant Professor! What are you most looking forward to in the role? 

It’s been really exciting to design my new lab space and shop for equipment, but I’m most looking forward to establishing my research group. It’s a great opportunity to bring new undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs into my research projects, as we work together to better understand our Universe.

Of course, you recently made a big move – tell us how you’re settling in?

It’s been crazy to move during a pandemic, but on the bright side, it’s kept me busy so I haven’t been bored, and it’s been nice to have a change of scenery.

What originally drew you to the Dunlap Fellowship program?

The Dunlap Fellowship gave me the opportunity to participate in the great research being conducted at the Dunlap Institute while also allowing me to pursue independent research interests. This flexibility combined with the other professional development opportunities was what initially drew me to the program.

What would you say was your greatest accomplishment at Dunlap?

I really enjoyed contributing to Dunlap’s instrumentation program by working with the balloon astrophysics group. During my time at Dunlap, we built gondolas and pointing systems for two major experiments: SPIDER and SuperBIT. This was a team effort including astronomers, physicists, and engineers across a range of academic career levels, and working together allowed us to build incredible instruments.

Tell us about another proud achievement while at Dunlap.

While at Dunlap, I was also involved in coordinating the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP). Postdocs play a major role in organizing this program, and it was a great experience to share our love of research with undergraduate students, many of whom had never worked on a research project before. It was really rewarding to see their confidence and enthusiasm grow as they became immersed in their projects, and I was very impressed by the results that they presented at the end of the summer.

How do you think Dunlap was helpful in your advancement into your current new role?

The Dunlap Institute has been invaluable in preparing for the next stage of my career. From providing early opportunities for professional development to help with job applications, Dunlap provided support every step of the way. In addition to the formal programming, many Dunlap members met with me individually to give advice and answer questions, and they remain a vital part of my support network.

If you’d like to continue to follow Nagy’s research, you can visit her faculty page.

Nagy applies adhesive to the SuperBIT crush pads.


Nagy works on the thermal treatment of the SuperBIT baffle

Nagy works on the thermal treatment of the SuperBIT baffle


Nagy secures the heater and thermometer wires for the telescope baffle.


Nagy listens in to a talk at the Dunlap Institute Summer School, 2019.