Texas Tech University

Einstein Fellow Alexandra Tetarenko to Join Texas Tech

Amanda Bowman

April 16, 2021

Alexandra Tetarenko

Tetarenko, whose research focuses on unraveling the complex nature of black holes, will join the Department of Physics and Astronomy this fall.

Texas Tech University is adding a NASA Einstein Fellow to its roster in the fall. Alexandra Tetarenko will work alongside Tom Maccarone, a professor in the university's Department of Physics and Astronomy, for three years as part of her Einstein fellowship through the NASA Hubble Fellowship Program (NHFP).

“I am incredibly excited to bring this Fellowship to Texas Tech,” Tetarenko said. “Working with Dr. Maccarone and the Astrophysics group will give me the support and resources I need to successfully deploy new observing and statistical techniques to understand how black holes launch powerful jets.”

Tetarenko's research focuses on studying relativistic jets – beams of ionized matter accelerated close to the speed of light – launched from stellar-mass black hole systems in our galaxy, to understand the complex relationship between the mass plunging into a black hole and the material that is jettisoned away. The main goals of her research are to develop new ways to study jets launched from black holes, both in terms of designing observing techniques to gather new types of data, as well as building new computational and statistical tools to analyze this data.

“The dynamics of jets, and how they produce power from radio waves through gamma-rays, and move at speeds so close to the speed of light, have long been a mystery in astronomy,” Maccarone said. “Alex has already laid the groundwork for how to understand them by looking at how they vary, and we are very excited that she will take the next step of really figuring out how lots of jet sources work here at Texas Tech.”

As an Einstein Fellow, Tetarenko's pioneering research program will implement a novel time-domain technique to observe galactic black hole systems at radio wavelengths. This innovative technique, adapting algorithms used in X-ray astronomy, allows her to directly measure the physical properties of black hole jets and how they evolve through measuring how the intensity of the light we receive from these jets varies over different time-scales.

With this research, she will place constraints on jet speeds, energetics and size-scales, in turn allowing her to begin to address key open questions in jet research, such as understanding the energy source of these jets and the impact they have on their environment. This work also will provide benefits to the broader scientific community, through developing statistical techniques that can be applied to big data problems, and building new observing methods applicable for the operations and data analysis at next-generation telescopes.

“NASA selects only a handful of new fellows for its prestigious NHFP every year,” said Sung-Won Lee, a professor and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “I am thrilled that Dr. Tetarenko, a newly selected NASA Einstein Fellow, is joining Texas Tech to work on various research projects in astrophysics with Dr. Maccarone and our astrophysics group over the next three years. Once again, I sincerely congratulate Dr. Tetarenko for being named a 2021 NASA Einstein Fellow, and welcome her to join the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Texas Tech.”

Tetarenko received her doctoral degree from the University of Alberta in Canada in 2018. She was awarded the J.S. Plaskett Medial from the Canadian Astronomical Society for the most outstanding doctoral thesis in Canada. Tetarenko is currently a fellow at the East Asian Observatory in Hilo, Hawaii.

“Texas Tech University is extremely proud of the accomplishments of our astrophysics group,” said Joseph Heppert, vice president for research and innovation. “Attracting accomplished scientists like Dr. Tetarenko to the program is a signal of the continuing prominence and international visibility of the program. We are truly proud to welcome Dr. Tetarenko to Texas Tech.”