About Me

Hi there! I’m Samantha Scibelli, a Jansky Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Charlottesville, VA. I am interested in the broader topics of star formation, astrochemistry and radio astronomy.

Before my start at NRAO, I completed my PhD as a NSF Graduate Research Fellow in the Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona. During my thesis I focused on constraining the physical, kinematic, and chemical structure of low-mass prestellar cores to better understand their evolution. See Current Research Interests and follow me on ResearchGate!

In my free time I enjoy cuddling with my cat, Tabatha, going for hikes, cooking new recipes and reading popular science books. Passionate about science writing myself, I also completed a Science Communications Certificate at the University of Arizona. A short memoir, describing my early childhood and how I got interested in astronomy, has been published online at terrian.org. I’ve written science articles on the hidden secrets of local squirrels in The Daily Wildcat, and another on how satellite communication networks will negatively affect radio astronomy in the Green Valley News. I have also been featured in the 1MWIS campaign, which aims to collect profiles of 1 million STEM women to provide visible role models and inspiration the next generation of girls.

Finger Rock Trail

Current Research Interests

COMs in Prestellar Cores

Astrobiologists are interested in understanding the origins of organic chemistry, the basis for life on Earth, and believe it is very likely to have had its origin at the very early stages of solar system formation. A starless, or prestellar, core is a dense clump of gas and dust which acts as a primordial birthplace for a low-mass (solar-type) star. I use the ARO 12M radio dish on Kitt Peak to search for Complex Organic Molecules (COMs) in prestellar cores located along the Taurus Molecular Cloud, a filamentary star forming region (shown below). By studying the chemistry within these cores we can better understand their physical properties and evolutionary timescales. [Check out this astrobites article!] & [News Link]

Taurus Molecular Cloud

Adapted Herschel Image of the Taurus Molecular Cloud (~135pc away)

Credit: ESA/Herschel/NASA/JPL-Caltech, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO; Acknowledgement: R. Hurt (JPL-Caltech)

3D Radiative Transfer Modeling

In my most recent publication, I have focused on understanding how starless cores in Taurus evolve by tracing not only their chemistry, but their physical structure. I performed 3D radiative transfer dust modeling with the code RADMC-3D, which was aided by high resolution (12 and 19 arcsecond) dust continuum maps (at 1.2mm and 2.0mm) of the B10 region within the L1495 filament. Constraints were placed on the central densities, density slopes, aspect ratios, dust opacities, and external radiation field strengths for 14 cores embedded within B10. The models were used to assess the stability and evolutionary state of each COM-rich core, which in turn has shed light on the conditions needed for COM chemistry to thrive.


Adapted from Scibelli et al., 2023

Previous Research Interests

V Hydrae, an AGB star in Transition

As an intern at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, I worked on analyzing Hubble Data of the carbon star V Hydrae (V Hya). This unique object provides insight into the nature of the launching mechanism of jet-like outflows that are believed to be the cause of the poorly understood transition phase of AGB stars into aspherical planetary nebulae. [News Link]

Dark Matter and Gravitational Lensing

As an undergraduate physics student at Stony Brook University, I was interested in dark matter and gravitational lensing. My project focused on trying to break the degeneracies between disc and halo contributions in spiral galaxy rotation curves by combining kinematics and lensing. [ADS,arxiv]

Additionally, the summer before I started my undergraduate program, I interned at the Laser Teaching Center in the basement of the physics building at Stony Brook. I worked on understanding the caustic patterns that arise from evaporating water droplets, with the foresight in mind that understanding caustics would help me to formulate a project on gravitional lensing. [Undergrad Research Page

Relevant Links

Astrochemistry Textbooks



Js9 (online Ds9)