Rachel Paterno-Mahler, MS

Astronomy Department

Boston University

725 Commonwealth Ave, Room 524 · (617) 353-6554 · rachelpm at bu dot edu

About Me · Research · Teaching · CV · Resources · Links · Stuff I Love · Books

About Me

I graduated in May 2007 with a B.A. in physics from Pomona College in Claremont, CA, and with my MS in physics from the University of California, Irvine in December 2009. Currently I am a graduate student at Boston University (BU). I am a member of the Astronomy Department. Ultimately, I would like to pursue a career as a research scientist.

Outside of physics, my interests are varied. While at Pomona I was a member of the Pomona College Choir, and I still try and sing when the opportunity presents itself. I also enjoy cooking, especially chocolate desserts.


I have been involved in research since the summer of 2005. Currently I am working with Dr. Elizabeth Blanton. I am using Chandra x-ray data to look at galaxy clusters.

While at UCI, I worked with Dr. Manoj Kaplinghat at UCI. Quinn Minor, another graduate student, and I used theoretical gravitational lensing models to determine how much better we could constrain the mass estimates of the lensing system by adding time delays to the calculation. My funding was provided by the Department of Education through a GAANN Fellowship. This work was the basis of my Master's Theis, and can be read here.

In the summer of 2006, I worked with Dr. John Mulchaey at The Carnegie Observatories to determine the AGN fraction of galaxy groups using the x-ray telescope XMM-Newton. I was able to extend this project to my senior thesis. If you are interested, you can read it here.

In the summer of 2005, I (along with another undergraduate student) worked with Dr. Alma Zook, who is a Professor of Physics at Pomona College. We used the Pomona College one-metre telescope at Table Mountain Observatory to monitor blazars, which are highly and irregular variable active galactic nuclei. We were able to do this remotely. We reduced our observations and plotted light curves to determine if any of our objects had flared up or exhibited microvariability. This project is ongoing, although I am no longer involved. That same summer, I spearheaded the Pomona College effort to observe the Deep Impact mission, the results of which can be found here.


Currently I am focusing on my research. As such, I hold no teaching duties at the moment. In the past, I have taught Introduction to the Solar System, Cosmology, and Stars and Galaxies. Please check back soon for tips that might make your studies in astronomy easier.

At both BU and UCI, my teaching duties have included holding office hours, leading discussion section, and leading lab section. At BU, I also hold night lab, weather permitting, where students explore the night sky using the BU observatory. My classes at BU consist solely of non-majors, while at UCI I did teach a quarter of introductory physics to physics and engineering students

Curriculum Vitae

The most recent version of my CV (in PDF form).


Here are some astronomy-related links you might find helpful:

Other Links

Here are a few links to other websites of interest:

Stuff I Love Right Now

Here is a list of things I love right now:

  • Halloween
  • Swimming and Aqua Fitness/Water Aerobics
  • Jimmy Eat World
  • Peacoats
  • Hot Yoga
  • Puppies


Here are some books relevant to the subject that are also accesible to the lay person. I have read them all, and as I continue to read books that are interesting I will add them.

  • A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking. I did not like this book very much; however I did read it when I was 14, so I might not have been old enough.
  • The Elegant Universe, Brian Greene. Greene writes about string theory. I thought this book was too self-congratulatory.
  • The Black Hole War, Leonard Susskind. I was inclined to dislike this book, based on reviews I read, as it seemed like Susskind wanted to discredit Stephen Hawking out of spite. However, I found it to be the most readable on this list. Susskind discusses the clash of quantum mechanics and general relativity as it applies to information loss and black holes. I thought he explained the physics clearly, and there are many diagrams to help the reader. It is also clear that he has quite a bit of respect for Hawking.