Melissa L. Graham (she/her)

Research Scientist
A headshot of me smiling in my home office, in black and white, wearing a hoodie sweatshirt with my plants visible behind me.

Contact Information



Research Scientist, U. of Washington, 2016-present
Postdoc, UC Berkeley, 2013-2016
Postdoc, Las Cumbres Observatory & UC Santa Barbara, 2010-2013
Ph.D., Astrophysics, University of Victoria, 2010
B.Sc.H., Astrophysics, Queen's University, 2004

I am currently a research staff scientist in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Washington in Seattle WA USA, where I work with the Rubin Observatory and its Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) as a Data Management Science Analyst during construction and as the Lead Community Scientist for operations. My main research focus is supernovae, especially those of Type Ia.

Rubin LSST Data Management Science Analyst. I support the activities of the LSST Data Management team from a science perspective. This includes studying the DM plans and deliverables, providing feedback to the pipeline design, performing feasibility studies of specific applications with the baseline data products, producing technical and policy documents from these studies – including a set of user-facing technical notes describing the DM products for the broader astronomical community. In this role I focus on the planned DM data products for time-domain astrophysics (e.g., alert packets) and cosmology (e.g., photometric redshifts).

Rubin Lead Community Scientist. I lead the Community Science team in the System Performance department, which oversees our user-facing resources and provides support for scientists and students using the LSST data products. The volume and complexity of the LSST data products requires a proportionally innovative and progressive model for engaging and supporting the large and diverse community of scientists that it was designed to serve. Together we are building high-quality documentation and tutorials, and the support infrastructure necessary to foster a vibrant, inclusive, and self-sustaining research community. To get involved in preparations for Rubin Observatory and the LSST, visit the Data Preview 0 site, the LSST website for scientists, or join the Rubin Community Forum.

Research on Type Ia Supernovae. I am an observational astrophysicist who studies supernovae, stellar explosions so energetic they produce the light of a billion suns. Supernovae exhibit a variety of characteristics, and most of them are in galaxies so far away that the original star cannot be resolved. It is important to understand how stars explode because supernovae release the heavy elements fused in the star’s interior which form metal-enriched objects like planets, and because they are used as “standard candles” for cosmological studies of dark energy. I focus on understanding the thermonuclear explosions of carbon-oxygen white dwarf stars as Type Ia supernovae (SN Ia). I have used a variety of observatories such as Hubble, Keck, Gemini, MMT, Blanco, CFHT, Lick, SOAR, Las Cumbres, and the DAO.


Professional Affiliations
American Astronomical Society (AAS), Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA), LSST Transients and Variable Stars Science Collaboration, LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration