MIT Kavli Institute Directory

Elisabeth Newton

NSF Postdoctoral Fellow Postdoctoral Scholar

Elisabeth Newton joins MKI as an NSF Astronomy & Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow. Her research focuses on the physics of nearby, low mass stars (red dwarfs, or M dwarfs), and the planets that orbit them. Elisabeth is enthusiastic about mentoring and outreach. She helped found <a href=””>Astrobites</a>, a blog that communicates current research in astronomy to an undergraduate audience, and <a href=””>ComSciCon<a/>, a national workshop on science communication for graduate students. As part of her NSF Fellowship, she will be teaching an introductory astronomy course in Massachusetts state prisons through the BU Prison Education Program.

Elisabeth received her PhD in Astronomy & Astrophysics from Harvard University in 2016 with her thesis "The Evolution of Rotation and Magnetism in Small Stars Near the Sun". She earned her B.S. in Physics from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2009.

Research interests: 

Most nearby stars are unlike our Sun: three­-quarters of the stars in our galaxy are M dwarfs, with masses from a tenth to a half that of the Sun. However, there are outstanding challenges in understanding the physics of this common type of star, from the origin of their magnetic dynamo to predicting their sizes and temperatures. Elisabeth uses observations to investigate their fundamental stellar properties, angular momentum evolution, and magnetic field generation.

The small sizes of M dwarfs make them excellent targets around which to search for and to characterize planets around other stars (exoplanets). Elisabeth’s past research has demonstrated how near-infrared spectra can be used to infer stellar parameters and measure absolute kinematic radial velocities. Elisabeth is excited about using these systems as an opportunity to study the formation and evolution of exoplanets, particularly at young ages.

Honors and awards: 

NSF Astronomy & Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow, 2016-
Fireman Fellow, 2016
Harvard Horizons Scholar, 2015
NSF Graduate Research Fellow, 2010-2013