This mini-bio is extra special because it’s about the incredible woman who helped capture the image for our new black hole jewelry line, which hit the shop this week – eeeeek!
Katherine Louise Bouman, or Katie for short, is an American computer scientist working in the field of imaging who hails from The Hoosier State of Indiana. As a smart cookie high schooler, Katie was already conducting imaging research at Purdue University. (Fun Fact: Katie’s father is a professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering there.)
For her bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan, Katie studied electrical engineering and graduated summa cum laude in 2011. In 2013, she joined the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project. The EHT is a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes (literally linked around the world) that were forged through international collaboration and designed to capture images of a black hole.
Katie led the EHT team that worked to develop an algorithm for imaging black holes, known as Continuous High-resolution Image Reconstruction using Patch priors, or CHIRP. CHIRP inspired image validation procedures used in acquiring the first image of a black hole in April of this year – the very image we use for our super cool jewelry!
Side Note: The black hole was found to be in the center of a galaxy far, far away called Messier 87, near the Virgo galaxy cluster. By far, far away, I mean 55 million light-years away from Earth. This bad boy is estimated to have a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun. Woah!
Commendably, Katie earned her master’s degree (2013) and doctoral degree (2017) in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At MIT, Katie was a member of the Haystack Observatory. In case you didn’t know, because I didn’t, a group of 100 scientists, engineers and technical personnel conduct the Observatory's daily and annual research programs and operations.
Fun Fact: Katie’s master’s thesis, Estimating Material Properties of Fabric through the Observation of Motion, was awarded the Ernst Guillemin Award for best Master's Thesis in electrical engineering. Ernst Guillemin was an American electrical engineer and computer scientist at MIT who spent his career extending the art and science of linear network analysis and synthesis. I’m sure it’s just as technical as it sounds.
Prior to receiving her doctoral degree, Katie presented an interesting TEDx talk called How to Take a Picture of a Black Hole in 2017, in which she explained how algorithms (yay, trusty math!) could be used to capture the first image of a black hole. Here’s a link if you’re interested in listening since it’s pretty rad and I dig her enthusiasm. After earning her doctorate, Katie expanded on her work with the EHT by joining the imaging team at Harvard University as a postdoctoral fellow; and well, the rest is history!
It is said that sometime this month, Katie will join the California Institute of Technology faculty as an assistant professor of computing and mathematical sciences. She plans to work on new systems for computational imaging using computer vision and machine learning. Katie and the EHT group are said to be closely analyzing images to learn more about general relativity in a strong gravitational field.
With that, I’ll thank Einstein for his work in the field of relativity, and Katie for being a part of the team who brought us the FIRST EVER images of a real freakin’ black hole! Enjoy the new jewelry, friends!