Logan Pearce: Astronomy PhD Candidate

March 29, 2024
Logan Pearce

Logan Pearce will be graduating this May with her PhD in Astronomy.

As she prepares to graduate with her PhD, Logan Pearce reflects on her previous career in middle school education, and discusses her plans for her upcoming postdoc fellowship at the University of Michigan. Read more below!

What brought you to Steward Observatory?

I always wanted to pursue both astronomy and a career in the Navy. Following my Navy career, I taught middle school science for 6 years. In getting kids excited about space, it reminded me how excited I was about space, and that I had the opportunity to make a career out of it. I returned for a second undergrad at the University of Texas where I did research in exoplanet direct imaging. Steward Observatory has a large exoplanet direct imaging group doing exciting research, and I knew I would like living in Tucson, so it was the best place for me to continue building my career.

Can you describe your research and any especially interesting learning experiences you’ve had during your time here?

I study stars and exoplanet through direct, high-contrast imaging, or trying to directly detect a faint thing close to a bright thing. My group at Steward, the Extreme Wavefront Control lab, has built a cutting edge high-contrast instrument called MagAO-X, which is pushing the boundaries of what's capable with this science. I have been conducting my own observing campaigns with MagAO-X, and I have a program looking for young exoplanets, white dwarf companions to main sequence stars, and preparing for the next evolution of exoplanet science with the next generation giant telescopes currently being built.

What's your greatest point of pride from your time at Steward?

I am proud of how I have built my own science program and developed expertise beyond the expertise of my mentors. I have built a successful program observing white dwarfs with MagAO-X all on my own, and have become a go-to person for working with Gaia data. I can really see how I've grown into an independent scientist during my time here.

Can you share piece of wisdom from your time as an astronomy student?

Even if you're just beginning, you have something to contribute. Don't look at the capabilities of the more senior folks as intimidating; you'll be surprised when you suddenly are the senior person and you are capable too. Just keep doing what you find interesting and exciting and the rest will come. And if you don't find it exciting, that's ok too. Go find the thing that gets you excited. Even if that means a huge career shift in your 30s like I did!

What’s next?

I am going to the University of Michigan as the inaugural ELT Postdoctoral Fellow. I will be continuing my work preparing for the next generation of high-contrast imaging of exoplanets with the extremely large telescope (ELT) programs going on in the US and Europe, as well as continuing my white dwarf program developed at Steward.


As the semester approaches its end, we’re excited to celebrate our students who will be graduating in May. Stayed tuned for more Spotlight profiles on Steward Observatory graduates, and follow our social media channels for more insight into the lives of our students, staff and faculty.


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