You are here

Matthew Hankins

Matthew Hankins



I am currently a PhD candidate in the astronomy department at Cornell University. My primary research area focuses on the center of our galaxy and understanding the nature of star formation in this complex and interesting environment. The Galactic center is home to the supermassive black hole, Sgr A*, as well as numerous massive stars and molecular clouds. I use infrared observations taken with the Faint Object Infrared Camera for the SOFIA Telescope (FORCAST) instrument on the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) [] to better understand the population of recently formed stars and search for newly forming stars in the region. Our group has observed prominent star forming regions in the Galactic center including the Sickle and Arched Filaments HII regions. I have authored papers on both of these regions and continue to work on other observations of the Galactic center using SOFIA and other observatories. I was awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship [] for my work on the Galactic center in 2015.

I am also interested in studying the dust emission from massive evolved stars. High mass stars undergo several extreme changes once they evolve off the main sequence. They develop strong winds which drive mass loss from the surface of the star. There are several post-main sequence phases that high mass stars are thought to go through, though the transitions between them are not well understood. Objects in some of these phases, such as Luminous Blue Variables (LBVs) and dusty Wolf-Rayet (WR) stars, are efficient dust formers and can be bright at infrared wavelengths. Studying the dust emission from these objects helps to constrain physical properties such as their luminosity and properties of their winds. I am involved in collaborations working to study these types of objects using observatories like SOFIA and the Very Large Telescope (VLT) [].

In addition to my research, I am very passionate about teaching and astronomy outreach. I'm currently a fellow for the Cornell Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) []. As a CTE fellow, I work with other graduate students and TA’s across the university to help them learn about various effective and innovative teaching and learning practices. I am also actively involved in astronomy outreach programs at Cornell. I am currently the web manager for Cornell Astronomy's Ask an Astronomer webpage [], and volunteer for many outreach events and programs run through the department.

Graduate Fields

  • Astronomy and Space Sciences


Galactic center, Star forming regions, Massive and evolved stars, & Dust formation and the Interstellar medium.