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Keivan Stassun - Vanderbilt University. Nashville, TN, US

Keivan Stassun

Stevenson Professor of Physics | Vanderbilt University


Expert in the search for Earth-like planets across the galaxy and an advocate for diversity, including neurodiversity, in the academy.






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Rare study of Earth-sized planet uses technique pioneered by Vanderbilt professor Astrophysicist Keivan Stassun Wins 2018 AAAS Mentor Award Meet the Astronomer: Dr. Keivan Stassun


Areas of Expertise (1)

Astronomical Phenomena

Accomplishments (5)

Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Math, and Engineering Mentoring (professional)


HHMI Professor (professional)


AAAS Mentor of the Year (professional)


Research Corporation for Science Advancement SEED Award (professional)


Research Corporation for Science Advancement TREE Award (professional)


Education (3)

University of Wisconsin-Madison: Hubble Postdoc, Astronomy 2003

University of Wisconsin-Madison: Ph.D, Astronomy 2000

UC Berkeley: B.A., Physics 1994

Selected Media Appearances (10)

First images from NASA’s James Webb Telescope will be shared with researchers and students in Middle Tennessee

WPLN  radio


Dr. Keivan Stassun, an astrophysicist at Vanderbilt University, is helping lead that effort. He and his team will analyze these new images for revelations about space and time in distant galaxies.

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NASA Needs 'Multi-generational Commitment' for Space Mission DEI: Report

Newsweek  online


Keivan Stassun, one of the study's co-authors and the Stevenson Professor of Physics & Astronomy at Vanderbilt University's College of Arts & Science, added in a Vanderbilt news release that SMD's current process can "systematically disadvantage and exclude folks of certain backgrounds or life experiences who could be superb, arguably even more capable, leaders."

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Fix the system, not the students

Science  online


Even before the TEAM-UP report, some academic physicists had begun to take similar steps. At Vanderbilt University, astrophysicist Keivan Stassun was moved to act by data showing Black undergraduates are being pushed out of the field they want to study.

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NASA’s biggest telescope is about to launch, and a Vanderbilt astronomer has a ‘front row seat’ to cosmic discovery

WPLN  radio


“The James Webb Telescope is by far, by a country mile, the single most ambitious and technologically-advanced thing that human beings have sent into space,” said Dr. Keivan Stassun, an astrophysicist at Vanderbilt University.

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Recruiting for talent on the autism spectrum

CBS 60 Minutes  tv


Dan Burger's unique abilities caught the attention of Keivan Stassun, an astrophysics professor at Vanderbilt. His son is on the autism spectrum, and Stassun helped start the Frist Center.

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Revealed: The ‘Next Hubble’ Space Telescope That Will Photograph Another Earth, Cost $11 Billion And Launch In The 2040s

Forbes  online


The plans involve a new flagship space telescope, but rather than selecting one of the four proposals on offer the report has opted for a mix of two of them. “We did not want to say what mission concept we like best, but instead we wanted to say what we need to achieve,” said Keivan Stassun of Vanderbilt University and one of the members of the steering committee for this report.

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“Six Light-Years Away”–TESS Exoplanet Team Will Observe 400,000 Stars

The Daily Galaxy  online


“This is a remarkable time in human history and a huge leap for our understanding of our place in the universe,” said astronomer Keivan Stassun of Vanderbilt University, a member of the TESS science team that will observe 400,000 stars across the whole sky to catch a glimpse of an exoplanet transiting across the face of its star. The stars selected are bright, cool dwarfs, with temperatures roughly between 2,700 and 5,000 degrees Kelvin. The closest are only approximately 6 light-years from Earth.

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Super hot planet bigger than Jupiter might be disappearing

CNET  online


"KELT-9 radiates so much ultraviolet radiation that it may completely evaporate the planet," Vanderbilt's Keivan Stassun said in a release. "Or, if gas giant planets like KELT-9b possess solid rocky cores as some theories suggest, the planet may be boiled down to a barren rock, like Mercury." The team has published a paper describing the planet in the journal Nature and is also presenting it this week at a meeting of American Astronomical Society in Austin.

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Flawed Data Just Made That 'Alien Megastructure' Even More Unlikely

Gizmodo  online


“Whenever you are doing archival research that combines information from a number of different sources, there are bound to be data precision limits that you must take into account,” explained study co-author Keivan Stassun in a statement. “In this case, we looked at variations in the brightness of a number of comparable stars in the DASCH database and found that many of them experienced a similar drop in intensity in the 1960’s. That indicates the drops were caused by changes in the instrumentation not by changes in the stars’ brightness.”

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A Graduate Program Works To Diversify The Science World

NPR  online


"For too long we've thought about diversity as this problem sort of after the fact," says Keivan Stassun, an astronomy professor at Vanderbilt University. Stassun helped found the Bridge Program — a partnership between Vanderbilt and nearby Fisk, a historically black university — which was created in 2004 with the goal of increasing the numbers of women and underrepresented minority students earning Ph.D.s in science. "In reality," Stassun says, "the diversity is there, and we've been seriously filtering it out. And we've been filtering it out on the basis of things that are not actually predictive of who's going to succeed and who's going to fail." Those things are, mostly, GRE scores and GPA.

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Selected Articles (3)

Radius Inflation at Low Rossby Number in the Hyades Cluster

The Astrophysical Journal

Karl Jaehnig, Garrett Somers, Keivan G Stassun

2019 Radius inflation continues to be explored as a peculiar occurrence among magnetically active, low-mass stars. Recently, Somers & Stassun showed that radius inflation among low-mass stars in the young open cluster M45 (Pleiades Cluster) is correlated to the rotation rate: faster rotators are more inflated.

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On the Gaia DR2 distances for Galactic luminous blue variables

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Nathan Smith, Mojgan Aghakhanloo, Jeremiah W Murphy, Maria R Drout, Keivan G Stassun, Jose H Groh

2019 We examine parallaxes and distances for Galactic luminous blue variables (LBVs) in the Gaia second data release (DR2). The sample includes 11 LBVs and 14 LBV candidates. For about half of the sample, DR2 distances are either similar to commonly adopted literature values, or the DR2 values have large uncertainties.

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TOI-150: A transiting hot Jupiter in the TESS southern CVZ

The Astrophysical Journal Letters

Caleb I Cañas, Gudmundur Stefansson, Andrew J Monson, Johanna K Teske, Chad F Bender, Suvrath Mahadevan, Conny Aerts, Rachael L Beaton, R Paul Butler, Kevin R Covey, Jeffrey D Crane, Nathan De Lee, Matias R Diaz, Scott W Fleming, DA Garcia-Hernandez, Fred R Hearty, Juna A Kollmeier, Steven R Majewski, Christian Nitschelm, Donald P Schneider, Stephen A Shectman, Keivan G Stassun, Andrew Tkachenko, Sharon X Wang, Songhu Wang, John C Wilson, Robert F Wilson

2019 We report the detection of a hot Jupiter (${M}_{p}={1.75}_{-0.17}^{+0.14}\,{M}_{{\rm{J}}}$, R p = 1.38 ± 0.04 R J) orbiting a middle-aged star ($\mathrm{log}g={4.152}_{-0.043}^{+0.030}$) in the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) southern continuous viewing zone (β = −79fdg59).

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