Gemini South

Fletcher Waller is a queer astrophysicist at the University of Victoria, where he studies nearby ancient galaxies and their stars. Astronomy has been a lifelong interest for Fletcher, but his path to astronomy took a strange detour through music. At age 23, shortly after quitting music school, he had the opportunity to play Gustav Holst's "The Planets" suite with the Victoria Symphony on his tuba which he named after one of the most massive known stars: η Carinae. Fletcher landed his first astronomy student research position with his planetary science professor, who saw the performance.

Fletcher is now completing a Masters in astronomy. His research focuses on high-resolution spectroscopy of stars in nearby Ultra-Faint Dwarf galaxies, and using the spectral fingerprints of atoms to determine the chemical compositions of those stars. These galaxies are ancient; they stopped forming new stars 1-2 billion years after the Big Bang. And they are also very nearby: they are closer to us than the Andromeda galaxy. This makes Ultra-Faint Dwarfs very valuable for the study of the very early universe, and help us decode what the first stars and supernovae looked like.

Fletcher is also a NTCO student (New Technologies for Canadian Observatories, an organization that bridges the gap between academia and industry at early astronomy career stages). His research with high-resolution spectroscopy led him to an internship at the Gemini South Telescope in Chile, working on the new GHOST spectrograph. Fletcher is testing the data reduction pipeline, selecting targets for some of GHOST's first observations, learning about telescope and instrument operations, and doing everything he can to make sure GHOST is a great instrument for the broader astronomical community. Fletcher plans to use GHOST for his own research observations on Ultra-Faint Dwarf galaxies in the near future.

Fletcher is passionate about LGBTQ+ inclusivity in astronomy and STEM. He sees diversity as not just a label, but a way of viewing the world. His transition at the age of 24 gave him a new lease on life, and he believes that the intense self-examination queer folk go through gives them a unique and powerful set of perspectives that enrich any field they bring them to.

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Fletcher is also a purveryor of amateur astronomy art! He believes in the value of unskilled art, and that you can't make good art until you've made a lot of bad art. Fletcher builds community through crafting, and and loves to share the joy of creating with others. Art provides an outlet for Fletcher to consider what is important, and how to best communicate that. He would love to see what you have made!