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Tyler Gardner

His story: Originally from Saint Louis, Missouri, Tyler completed his undergraduate studies at Truman State University with a concentration in physics. He started undergrad as a biology/psychology major but switched to physics in his second year, after which he started talking to an astronomy professor and thought it would be interesting to try some astronomy research. Just like that, Tyler fell in love with the field.

When he decided to continue with graduate school, Tyler applied to a lot of programs. But when he came to the University of Michigan for visit day, there were a number of things that immediately struck him. First, it seemed like the current graduate students were happy and enjoyed the program. Second, it became apparent that the UM Astronomy department was working on a lot of exciting projects across a diverse set of fields. Third, he was really excited about the research opportunities that are available for students. Michigan soon became his clear choice.

His interests: Broadly speaking, Tyler’s interests in astronomy are primarily focused on exoplanets. More specifically, Tyler’s research focuses on using interferometry data to search for exoplanets in binary systems.

One aspect of his work that Tyler enjoys is collecting and analyzing data. When he was at Truman State University, he really enjoyed spending time observing and taking data at the university’s one telescope. His undergraduate mentor, Dr. Vayujeet Gokhale, was really supportive of his research and interests, and was a huge help when it came time to apply to grad school.

At U of M, Tyler is happy that he has lots of opportunities for observational astronomy and taking data. One thing that he really enjoys about Michigan is that as a graduate student he has been able to be the principal investigator on large observing projects and gets to go out to the telescopes about once a month to collect data.

His advice for future astronomy students: One of the biggest challenges that Tyler has faced as a graduate student is the feeling of being overwhelmed. When you have a big 5-year project ahead of you, it can sometimes feel like too much, and imposter syndrome and the feeling that you aren’t capable is a real hurdle that many students face. Despite this, Tyler would encourage those who are interested in astronomy to take the initiative to explore the field and he offers this sound advice: “If you think you have an interest in astronomy, do all you can to seek out somebody whose research you’re interested in and ask them questions. Try to get involved in projects to see if it’s something you really want to do – and keep in mind that you need to really love research if you want to do a Ph.D. program in astronomy.”

What’s next for Tyler?: After completing his doctoral studies, Tyler plans to pursue a postdoctoral position and eventually a faculty position. “I’m excited to one day have the freedom to create my own research projects, collaborate, and mentor more people as I transition from being a student to a researcher to eventually a faculty member,” said Tyler.