Seth Redfield, NEC98

HOME: Wethersfield, Connecticut

AGE: 34

OCCUPATION: Astrophysicist; assistant professor of astronomy, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut

USING THE HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE TO: Explore the mysterious light-absorbing gas and dust between stars; investigate a “debris disk”—a new star almost done forming the planets that will revolve around it.

RECENTLY RECEIVED A NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION GRANT TO: Analyze data from research in which he and colleagues detected light passing through the upper atmosphere of a Jupiter-like planet orbiting another star.

FINDS IT EASY TO EXCITE STUDENTS BECAUSE: “Astronomy encompasses some of the deepest questions we can ask—for example, Where are we? Why are we here? Are we special or common? How did we come to be?”

EDUCATIONAL LUCKY BREAK: Tufts’ partnership with New England Conservatory. “It allowed me to go on studying oboe and piano while getting my bachelor’s degree in physics and astrophysics. I’ve kept up my music as much as possible, playing in community orchestras in both Boulder and Austin when my work took me to those places.”

ON THE CONNECTION BETWEEN MUSIC AND ASTROPHYSICS: “With music, you spend hours upon hours perfecting your craft and confronting the limits of your talent. Astrophysics is similar, in that you are constantly trying to expand your understanding despite your ingrained assumptions or limited conceptual abilities.”

FAVORITE SOURCE OF ENTERTAINMENT: Wife Kaethe. “We’re always cracking each other up with goofy phrases or songs.”

DEFINING TRAITS: Astute but easy-going, open to different ways of thinking. Relishes a challenge. Attuned to the music of the spheres. Eager for new discoveries about the universe, fascinated by the ones that have been made so far. Grew up in the middle of the country (Nebraska), in the middle of his family’s birth order (with five sisters, two older and three younger).

BOOK HE CAN’T WAIT TO READ TO HIS NEW SON, OWEN: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. “It draws on such a grand and expansive world.”

HIS SCHOOLING: Tufts (B.S.), New England Conservatory (B.M.), University of Colorado at Boulder (M.S., Ph.D.)

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