CSDC Principal Data Scientist
Knut A.G. Olsen is a tenured staff Astronomer at NSF’s NOIRLab. He has served on the scientific staff of NOIRLab and its predecessor, NOAO, since 1998, first as a postdoctoral researcher and staff astronomer at Cerro Tololo InterAmerican Observatory (CTIO) in Chile, then as staff astronomer at NOAO and NOIRLab headquarters in Tucson, AZ. He earned degrees from Swarthmore College (B.A. in Astrophysics) in 1992 and the University of Washington (Ph.D. in Astronomy) in 1998.
Olsen’s research focuses on studying galaxy formation and evolutionary processes through evidence found in the stars of nearby galaxies. He has led work on the globular cluster systems of nearby dwarf galaxies, whose properties suggest that galaxy disks formed early in the Universe. His work on the Magellanic Clouds has helped to shape our understanding of how their mutual interaction has influenced their formation and evolution. His study of the effects of crowding on stellar photometry was critical to the success of surveys of the Andromeda Galaxy with ground-based adaptive optics and with the Hubble Space Telescope through the Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury (PHAT) program; it also provided a key pillar for the stellar populations science case for Extremely Large Telescopes (ELTs). He co-founded the SMASH survey and is a Builder of the DELVE survey, both of which have contributed to the nearly complete imaging coverage of the southern sky by the Dark Energy Camera. For his work in bringing the Dark Energy Survey data release to the community through his leadership of the Astro Data Lab, he earned the 2018 AURA Outstanding Achievement Team Award.
Olsen has lengthy involvement with the development of Rubin’s Legacy Survey of Space and Time. He co-chairs the Magellanic Clouds subgroup of the Stars, Milky Way, and Local Volume science collaboration; he serves on the Survey Cadence Optimization Committee, for which he led the acceptance of a new survey footprint; and he serves as the Rubin In-Kind Program Coordinator for contributed computing resources, which represent the value of tens of millions of dollars to the US community.