US National Gemini Office Staff


Letizia Stanghellini

Letizia Stanghellini is a NOIRLab/CSDC Astronomer, and the Head of the US NGO between 2017 and 2023. She started as an Associate Astronomer at NOAO in 2004 and had functional roles as TAC Scientist, TAC Manager, and Head of the System Users Support group and later of the US NGO. Previously, she was an Associate Astronomer at ESA/STScI (1998-2004), and an Assistant Astronomer at the Bologna Observatory (1988-1998). She obtained her Ph. D. in Astronomy from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1995), with a thesis on hot planetary nebulae (PNe) nuclei. She has been researching PNe and their progenitors and progeny for many decades now, and she still finds them important, challenging, and beautiful. She likes to use them (and HII regions) as probes of the stellar populations in galaxies. Her research is both ground- and space-based, from IR multi-conjugated imaging and optical spectroscopy of Galactic and extragalactic PNe and HII regions with Gemini, to optical and UV/slitless spectroscopy and imaging of Galactic and Magellanic Cloud (SMC, LMC) PNe with HST, to Spitzer spectroscopy. Her research group has been the first to observe the fullerene molecules in the extragalactic environment, based on her Spitzer/IRS spectra of SMC PNe. She has been the founder and first President of the IAU Commission H3, "Planetary nebulae". Her technical interests verge on spectroscopy, especially on future multi-object spectrographs.
email: |

Vinicius Placco

Vinicius is an Associate Astronomer at NOIRLab/CSDC, working in the US NGO since September 2020 and the Head of te US NGO since March 2023. He obtained his B.Sc. in Physics (2005), M.Sc. (2007), and Ph.D. (2010) in Astronomy at the University of São Paulo in Brazil. Following postdoctoral appointments in São Paulo, he held postdoctoral positions at NOAO in Tucson and as a Gemini Science Fellow in Hawaii. Between 2015 and 2020, he was a Research Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Notre Dame. His research is in the field of Stellar/Galactic archaeology, focusing on establishing observational constraints on the origins and evolution of the chemical elements (from carbon to uranium) in the Milky Way and the Universe. These are accomplished through spectroscopy of the oldest, most metal-poor stars. Vinicius has extensive experience with spectroscopic observations, data reduction, and analysis in a variety of telescopes, on the ground and in space. He is one of six founding members of the R-Process Alliance, an effort to provide constraints (observational, theoretical, and laboratory) on the nature and origin of the astrophysical r-process. Vinicius is currently involved in efforts to apply machine learning techniques to narrow-band photometric surveys and also has interests in data science, data curation, and user support.
website: | email: |

Brian Merino

Brian Molina Merino is a data analyst at NOIRLab/CSDC, working in the US NGO as of July 2021. He obtained his B.S. in Physics with a concentration in Astrophyics (2017) and is on track to receive his M.S. in Astronomy before the end of 2021 from San Francisco State University. His research is on star formation within gravitationally lensed galaxies at redshifts 0.3 < z < 1.2, focusing on identifying how star formation rates change with redshift. Similar work has been done locally (z = 0) and for the high redshift universe (z > 1.2), so his work would bridge the gap in redshift space to determine whether or not star formation rates are evolving with redshift. This goal is accomplished by performing photometry on archived HST imaging data that spans the near UV to the infrared, then generating synthetic spectra to measure the intrinsic properties of these galaxies and their clumps, including redshift, star formation rates, stellar mass, etc. Brian also has experience using the LDSS3 and FIRE spectrographs on the Magellan telescopes to obtain spectra for some of the galaxies in the sample.
email: |


David Herrera

David is a Senior Research Assistant at NOIRLab. In 2007 he joined NOAO (now part of NOIRLab) as a data reduction specialist and has evolved and navigated through different projects within the NOIRLab organization ranging from data reduction, user help desk, data flow control, and assisting in the Time Allocation Committee. Currently, he is working on the data ingestion and curation of multiple data sets used by the astronomical community via the Data Lab. He has worked on different research projects from deep sky surveys, near-earth objects, supernova follow up, large scale structure, telescope robotization, and also has a prominent background as a telescope observer.


Updated on March 25, 2024, 10:58 am