Olivia Cooper

First Year Graduate Student

UT Austin Astronomy

About me

Hey! I’m Olivia (she/her), a first year astronomy graduate student at UT Austin. My research focuses on extreme distant galaxies, in particular starburst galaxies at cosmic noon. I graduated from Smith College in May 2020 with degrees in Astronomy and Physics and a concentration in Climate Change.


  • Dusty star forming galaxies
  • Galaxy formation & evolution
  • Large scale structure


  • BA in Astronomy & Physics, 2020

    Smith College



Senior Honors Thesis

Advisor: Professor James Lowenthal

Sep 2019 – May 2020 Smith College, MA
Measuring photo-z’s and lensing masses for 10 Planck-selected submillimeter galaxies to constrain foreground lens mass distribution


Advisors: Dr. Michael Coughlin, Shreya Anand

Jun 2019 – Aug 2019 California Institute of Technology, CA
Observe and simulate light curves of inspiraling eclisping binaries with orbital decay as potential ultracompact verification binaries for the future LISA mission

University of Utah Physics & Astronomy REU

Advisors: Professor Anil Seth, Professor Gail Zasowski

Jun 2018 – Jan 2019 University of Utah, UT
Investigate chemodynamics of complex stellar populations in M31 using high resolution infrared spectroscopy data from APOGEE-2

Climate Literacy Research Internship

Advisor: Professor Adina Merenlender

Dec 2017 – Aug 2019 UC Berkeley, CA
Collect and analyze climate science syllabi content from undergraduate courses to inform the UC Climate Stewards Initiative

STRIDE/Special Studies Research

Advisor: Professor James Lowenthal

Sep 2016 – May 2020 Smith College, MA
Follow-up observations on K2 and TESS exoplanet candidates using Smith’s 16” telescope and CCD, and AstroImageJ to reduce and analyze time domain differential photometry.


Curriculum gaps for adult climate literacy

Conservation scientists need to advance climate literacy so that people understand how climate affects all of life, acquire the skills to communicate about climate change, and become aware of ways to increase local resiliency. We examined syllabus content for 74 general climate change courses taught at the undergraduate college‐level to investigate the scope and extent to which these climate change courses include key topics to advance climate literacy. By analyzing the textual data, we discovered most courses had a strong focus on biogeophysical science and only 8.8 and 9.4% of the terms that occurred in this sample were connected to climate change solutions and communication, respectively. The fine category “Organisms,” which includes terms for specific animals such as “jellyfish” and “urchin” and related terms like “species”, was only observed in 26% of the syllabi; and the term “biodiversity” was mentioned seven times, “extinction” four times, and “animal” was mentioned two times across all 74 syllabi. This reveals a potential gap in addressing the impacts of climate change on biodiversity, and the role of some species in regulating climate. We recommend educators include a broader array of inter‐disciplinary topics, place‐based information, communication strategies, and mitigation and adaptation solutions to bridge the gap between climate science, literacy, and action.


  • The University of Texas at Austin, Department of Astronomy, Austin, TX, 78712, United States