Alyssa Goodman is the Robert Wheeler Willson Professor of Applied Astronomy at Harvard University, coDirector for Science at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and a Research Associate of the Smithsonian Institution. Goodman's research and teaching interests span astronomy, data visualization, the history of prediction, and online systems for research and education.
In her astronomical pursuits, Goodman and her research group at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA study the dense gas between the stars. They are particularly interested in how interstellar gas arranges itself into new stars, and in the large-scale structure of gas within the Milky Way. Their investigations use a variety of observational techniques covering the spectral range from X- ray to radio. Goodman was the Principal Investigator of The COMPLETE Survey of Star-Forming Regions, which mapped out three very large star-forming regions in our Galaxy in their entirety. More recently, Goodman and collaborators have been focusing on using very dense filamentary clouds, which they've dubbed the "Bones" of the Milky Way, in concert with other data to constrain the 3D structure of our Galaxy.
In computationally-oriented efforts, Goodman co-founded The Initiative in Innovative Computing (IIC) at Harvard, and she served as its Director from 2005-8. The initiative created a university-wide interdisciplinary center at Harvard fostering work at the boundary between computing and science. At present, Goodman leads a diverse group of researchers, librarians, and software developers in an ongoing effort known as "Seamless Astronomy," aimed directly at developing, refining, and sharing tools that accelerate the pace of scientific research, especially in astronomy. Current Seamless projects and spinoffs include glue, Authorea, the ADS All Sky Survey, Astronomy Rewind, the Astronomy Dataverse, and the WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors Program. The glue project, which allows for linked-view visualization of high-dimensional data, has drawn Goodman into medical imaging and machine learning research, even though the NASA-funded software's primary purpose is to help users of the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope better understand our Universe.
On the Harvard campus, Goodman teaches courses on astrophysics, prediction, and on the display of data, including one called The Art of Numbers. Online, Goodman and more than twenty Harvard colleagues are developing a new set of educational materials, called "PredictionX," which offers resources tracing out the history of how humans have foretold their own futures, from priests' interpretations of sheep entrails in Ancient Babylon to modern climate change simulation.
Goodman received her undergraduate degree in Physics from MIT in 1984 and a Ph.D. in Physics from Harvard in 1989. She held a President's Fellowship at the University of California at Berkeley from 1989-92, after which she took up a post as Assistant Professor of Astronomy at Harvard. In 1997, she received the Newton Lacy Pierce Prize from the American Astronomical Society for her work on interstellar matter. She became full professor at Harvard in 1999, was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2009, and Scientist of the Year by the Harvard Foundation in 2015. Goodman has served as Chair of the Astronomy Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and on the National Academy's Board on Research Data and Information, and she currently serves on the both the IAU and AAS Working Groups on Astroinformatics and Astrostatistics. Goodman serves on Boards and Steering Committees for several projects aligned with her work, including Authorea, ComSciCon, the Harvard Data Science Initiative, and WorldWide Telescope.<embed>