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Melissa L. Graham (she/her)

Research Scientist
Melissa Graham

Contact Information



I currently work with the LSST Data Management team as a Project Science Analyst. My main research focus is supernovae, especially those of Type Ia.

I am research scientist with the LSST Data Management team in the Astronomy Department at the University of Washington. In my role as Project Science Analyst I support the activities of the 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 papers describing the DM products for the broader astronomical community. My main science interests with LSST are supernova rates and environments as a pathway to understanding the progenitor star systems, and improving their use as cosmolgical standard candles.

Aside from preparing for science operations with the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, my main research focus as an observational astrophysicist is supernovae, stellar explosions so energetic they can produce the light of a billion suns. Supernovae exhibit a variety of characteristics, and most of them are in galaxies so far away that even when pre-supernova images exist, 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 so they can form metal-enriched objects like planets, and also because supernovae are used as “standard candles” for cosmological studies of dark energy. I use or have used a variety of the world’s prominent astronomical facilities such as the Hubble Space Telescope, Keck Observatory, Gemini Observatory, the MMT Observatory, the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, Lick Observatory, the Automated Planet Finder Telescope, the SOAR Telescope, the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, and the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory to untangle the enigma of how different types of stars create the variety of supernovae we find in the Universe.

I completed a Bachelors of Science with Honours and a Specialization in Astrophysics at Queen’s University in Kingston ON Canada, with a Junior year abroad at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Astrophysics at the University of Victoria in Victoria BC Canada. After a joint postdoctoral fellowship at UC Santa Barbara and the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network ( I moved to a senior postdoctoral fellowship at UC Berkeley and then joined the the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope team at the University of Washington as a research staff scientist in 2016.