My name is Daniel McIntosh, Assistant Professor of Physics & Astronomy at U.Missouri-Kansas City starting Fall 2008. I was born in Columbus, OH (my parents met at Ohio State U.). After moving around quite a bit early on, I spent my teenage and young adult years in Los Angeles. I attended LA Valley Community College and then UCLA, then I went to the University of Arizona for grad. school. I was a postdoc researcher at University of Massachuselts-Amherst for 7 years before moving to K.C. I have two great, college-age children who were born while I was still an undergraduate. I am married to a wonderful person and a fellow academic who shares my sense of adventure.
What is your specific area of research? What is your role within the CANDELS team?
I am interested in the growth of galaxies over cosmic time. In particular, I'm interested in the role of galaxy interactions and collisions, and I want to understand the physical processes that make the largest galaxies spheroidal in shape and dead in activity. My role within CANDELS has mainly been in helping the Morphology Working Group set up the visual classification infrastructure. Additionally, I am mentoring two students who are investigating the evolution of spheroidal and disturbed galaxies from z=2.5 to today.
What made you want to become an astronomer? At what age did you know you were interested in astronomy?
What obstacles have you encountered on your path to becoming an astronomer and how did you overcome them?
In retrospect, my largest obstacle was gaining the confidence to finish research projects. I had no trouble with finding interesting projects, coming up with questions, and doing the hard work. What I got stuck on, and what can still trip me up, is knowing when you have done enough and have enough to say something of interest. It is important to gain this confidence and to avoid perfectionism. My advice to overcome this hurdle is: make a plan, use time management practices to assess your plan's progress regularly, and do not work in isolation. It is important to realize that all questions are valid; it is a trap to think that your question is dumb or that you 'should know the answer'. Keep on asking questions -- it is at the heart of what we do!
Who has been your biggest scientific role model and why?
That's a tough question! I have several. Pieter van Dokkum (Yale) for clarity of writing and productivity. Two close friends, Eric Bell (Michigan) for always asking interesting and tough questions and Stephane Courteau (Queens) for his enthusiasm for mentoring students. Finally, Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson for their ability to communicate science to the world.
What is it like to be an astronomer? What is your favorite aspect?
What motivates you in your research?
What is your favorite astronomical facility? (This could include telescopes or super computers, for example)
Where do you see yourself in the future? What are your career aspirations?
I want to continue to inspire students for as long as I can. Having a positive impact on a young person's life is what it means to be a professor. And I want to continue to make my small contributions to improving our overall understanding -- after all, science is a collective endeavor.
If you could have any astronomy related wish, what would it be?
That our politicians would collectively (all parties!) wake up and realize that federal investments in all basic science like astronomy research and facilities have always paid huge dividends to our country's status and economy, and thereby the small current investment should be simply doubled rather than further constricted. This would solve hundreds of issues and help our country in countless positive ways that are difficult to predict but are clearly important.
What is your favorite, most mind-boggling astronomy fact?
That we are star stuff -- that the atoms that make up me and my loved ones were formed long before our world and Sun.
Is there anything else you would like for the public to know about you or astronomy in general?
I really appreciate the public's engagement in astronomy; I think it is a wonderful thing.