Searching to discover new galaxies
Dr. Leonidas Moustakas is a Research Scientist, astrophysicist, working in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA), being part of the “greek community” of four other scientists, Anezina Solomonidou, Antonis Bloom, Anastasios Petropoulos and Panagiotis Kourdis, that also work there.
He is interested in fundamental questions about the origin of the universe and the evolution of all of the universe’s constituent parts. This is the study of observational cosmology. He uses data across the full electromagnetic spectrum from many Observatories in space and on the ground. By discovering and studying the properties of galaxies and galaxy clusters (including with the Hubble Space Telescope CANDELS and CLASH programs), he studies the details of how structure assembles and changes over cosmic time.
His research interests focus on the evolution of galaxies and the nature of the so called “dark matter”. “We have a great scientific environment in JPL, which in combination with the advanced technology gives us the possibility to create telescopes with very accurate observational methods in the future. We have currently discovered thousands of new planetary systems, meaning, planets orbiting around other stars. Many of those stars can actually be seen with the naked eye”, says Moustakas at a recent interview.
“Furthermore, the image we have for the universe has changed significantly. Having evolved the technology of telescopes we are closer to discovering planets that are much like earth, where we will seek for the existence of extraterrestrial life. That’s what JPL does. Greek scientists in Greece, and abroad, are all a part of core, part of a power recognizable internationally”.
Moustakas came to the United States at the age of 17 to study Physics and Astrophysics. “In this field, a Ph.D. Is absolutely necessary”, says Leonidas. So he got his Bachelor of Science in Physics in 1991 from the University of Arizona, and his Bachelor of Science in Astronomy in the same year and the same university. He carried on with his Master of Science in Astronomy from Berkeley University in 1994, and completed his Ph.D in Astrophysics in 1998, once again in Berkeley.
As far as his professional experience goes, he was a Postdoc Researcher in the University of Oxford from 1992 to 2002, a Postdoc with the pitzer/GOODS-Legacy project at the Space Telescope Science Institute from 2002 to 2005, and from 2005 he joined the JPL Astrophysics and Space Sciences Section (Scientist, Research Scientist and Section Manager until today).