Kate Rowlands

Astronomy postdoc at the Johns Hopkins University


My main research interests are galaxy evolution, with a focus on the multiwavelength properties of both local and distant galaxies. I use the Herschel Space Observatory in combination with UV-optical data from large photometric and spectroscopic galaxy surveys such as GAMA and MaNGA to determine the star-formation histories and dust properties of large samples of galaxies.

My research interests include:

  • Multiwavelength spectral energy distribution (SED) model fitting.
  • Statistical interpretation of galaxy properties derived from large spectroscopic and multiwavelength photometric surveys.
  • Galaxy bimodality - starbursts, galaxy mergers, post-starburst galaxies, quenching.
  • Connection between galaxy morphology and physical properties.
  • Properties, origins and evolution of dust and gas in galaxies, particularly in (traditionally gas/dust-poor) early-type galaxies.
  • Chemical evolution modelling.

Why do galaxies stop forming stars?

One key problem in astrophysics is understanding galaxy evolution and transformation, in particular how and why galaxies switch off their star formation. Whilst stellar-driven outflows are ubiquitous in star-forming galaxies at high redshift and may remove some gas, simulations suggest that additional mechanisms are required to induce a galaxy-wide shutdown in star formation. Feedback from active black holes are usually invoked to complete the transition of galaxies from star forming to quiescent, through gas heating or expulsion. However, the exact mechanisms that lead to the disruption of the gas supply and hence the shut-down of star formation, the relative importance of different quenching mechanisms, and the timescales involved are still poorly understood. My research centers on galaxy formation and evolution, in particular in galaxy transformation and quenching over cosmic time.

Post-starburst galaxy evolution

Post-starburst galaxies are an ideal laboratory to study quenching as they have undergone a dramatic starburst event which can rapidly exhaust and/or expel gas on a <1 billion year timescale. These galaxies are thought to be caught in the act of transformation between star-forming and quiescent. Post-starbursts are commonly assumed to be devoid of gas and dust, although recent studies (Rowlands et al. 2015), have shown that low-redshift post-starbursts still harbour a significant cold interstellar medium similar to spiral galaxies. Low-redshift post-starbursts are not completely devoid of gas as was previously thought, which challenges the rapid quenching mode of forming the quiescent population (see Figure). I use my experience with multiwavelength data and statistical analysis of large datasets spanning 10 billion years of cosmic time to understand why galaxies stop forming stars.

About me

I am a postdoc at the Johns Hopkins University working with Tim Heckman, Nadia Zakamska and Brice Menard on the MaNGA survey. I am a 2018 ALMA Ambassador.

I previously worked at University of Andrews with Vivienne Wild on the ERC starting grant SEDmorph project to study the physical properties of galaxies and how these change over time.

I completed my PhD at the University of Nottingham in June 2013, where I worked on the dust properties of galaxies using Herschel-ATLAS data.

Kate Rowlands


Department of Physics & Astronomy
Johns Hopkins University
Bloomberg Center
3400 N. Charles St.
MD 21218, USA
Email: katerowlands.astro AT gmail.com
Tel: (+1) 410-516-6659