Shelley Wright

Associate Professor, Physics
Center for Astrophysics & Space Sciences
University of California, San Diego

Shelley Wright

Lorem IpsumI am an observational and experimental astrophysicist that enjoys studying galaxies and supermassive black holes near and far, and building optical and infrared instruments for telescopes. I specialize in designing and using astronomical instruments that make use of adaptive optics, with a particular focus on techniques using integral field spectrographs. I am also a SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) researcher and instrumentalist. I am Associate Professor in Physics at University of California, San Diego. I am the Principal Investigator of the UC San Diego Optical and Infrared Laboratory. Previous to UC San Diego I was Assistant Professor at the Dunlap Institute at University of Toronto (2012-2014). I earned an Astronomy Ph.D. in 2008 at UCLA .

Publications: ADS

Curricula Vitae: CV


Optical & Infrared Laboratory

The Optical & Infrared Laboratory at the Center for Astrophysics & Space Sciences (CASS) focuses on developing facility-class instrumentation for large ground-based telescopes and developing new, innovative techniques for astronomical instrumentation. We are currently engaging in both software and hardware development for a first light instrument, IRIS, for the Thirty Meter Telescope; Keck Observatory instrumentation; and near-infrared and optical SETI instrumentation.

Observational Programs

My current research focuses on answering how galaxies and supermassive black holes form and evolve over cosmic time. In particular, we use integral field spectrographs with adaptive optics to identify and analyze the dynamics and chemical abundances of galaxies in the early universe, and properties of supermassive black holes. This technique provides a unique ability to probe the 3D spatial extent of high-redshift (z > 1, look back time greater than 7.5 Gyr) galaxies and active galactic nuclei at sub-arcsecond (sub-kiloparsec) scales.

We are leading an Intermediate Redshift OSIRIS Chemical-Abundances Kinematics Survey (IROCKS) that uses Keck AO and OSIRIS to study z~1 galaxies and characterizes their resolved star formation properties (Mieda et al., in prep).

We are leading an OSIRIS and Keck AO program to resolve Quasar host galaxies to study their star formation properties, nebular excitation mechanisms, and dynamical properties.

I work on a variety of other projects, including the imaging of gravitationally-lensed distant galaxies, exploration of nearby galaxies, the black hole-bulge (or M-sigma) relationship, evolved stars, and SETI.


We participate in the development of IRIS (InfraRed Imaging Spectrograph) is a first light instrument for the future Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) . The IRIS science instrument suite will include a near-infrared (0.88 - 2.4 microns) imaging camera and integral field spectrograph (IFS), which are both designed to sample the high spatial resolution achieved with TMT's advanced adaptive optics (AO) system. I have served as the IRIS Project Scientist since 2012.

Optical & Near-IR SETI

Our team focuses on developing optical and near-infrared SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) instrument and experiments. We recently commisioned a new near-infrared SETI instrument (NIROSETI) at the Nickel telescope (1m) at Lick Observatory. The premise of this instrument is to search for ETI signals which would use strong pulsed near-infrared laser signals at nanosecond intervals that can be distinguished from astrophysical sources. This is the first near-infrared SETI search every conducted, and we are currently designing new methods and instrumentation for future searches. We are also developing the first dedicated optical and near-infrared SETI observatoryi (PANOSETI) that will be capable of searching for transient signals from nanosecond to second timescales over the instantaneous observable sky (8,500 sq. degrees).


Physics 13 - Life in the Universe

Physics 13 is an introductory course in the interdisciplinary study of Astrobiology or “Life in the Universe”. The course provides scientific tools and perspectives on how we define and identify life, how life began and evolved on Earth, and potential methods of searching for life beyond Earth. Ideas in this course are framed in the disciplines of astronomy, physics, biology, chemistry, and geology. Students conduct independent research projects and the class has group field trips. I instructed this course in Fall 2015 and will be teaching it again in Fall 2016.

Physics 164 - Observational Astrophysics

Physics 164 is an upperdivision labortary course that provides students instruction in modern astronomical techniques and observations. The class conducts three advanced laboratory activities that addresss fundamental principles of photon statistics,detector noise, photometry, astrometry, spectroscopy, telescopes, and coordinate systems. Students learn programming in Python, research methods, and scientific writing. I have developed and taught this course since Spring 2015.


University of California, San Diego
Center for Astrophysics & Space Sciences
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92039-0424

Tel: 858-534-3316
Fax: 858-534-0177

Office: SERF building, Rm. 414
Optical & Infrared Lab: SERF building, Rm. 463