The Catholic University of America

Dr. Duilia F. de Mello

Department of Physics

I was fascinated by the mysteries of the universe since I was a little kid. I couldn’t stop starring at the Moon during the summer months in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where I grew up. I was amazed by the images that satellites were sending to Earth from far away planets in the mid-70s. But when I told my teachers and my family that I wanted to become a professional astronomer, I got mixed reactions. Most of them didn’t even know what an astronomer did for living. Fortunately, I listened to my favorite History teacher, Geraldo, and followed my dreams. I still remember my mother questioning me about the job market for astronomers after taking me to visit the Federal University. But I won the argument by asking her Why couldn’t I become one of the professors there one day? I earned a BS in Astronomy from that university 4 years later. I continued pursuing my dream to become a professional astronomer and earned two master’s degrees, one from the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research and another from the University of Alabama, and a PhD from the University of Sao Paulo. I joined CUA as an Associate Professor in Physics in 2008 where I teach Astronomy and Physics for non-science majors.

I do most of my research at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center where I explore how galaxies formed and evolved to become today’s galaxies, like our own Milky Way. I supervise PhD students and work with a team of extragalactic astronomers. One of our latest discoveries, nicknamed ‘blue blobs’, are nursery of stars in the intergalactic medium. I have also in my resume a supernova that I discovered while observing in the mountains of Chile in 1997.  I have worked in Sweden at the Onsala Space Observatory and at the Hubble’s Institute in Baltimore. What do I do in my free time? Besides flying around in small airplanes with my husband Tommy, taking aerial photographs, and fossil hunting on the beaches of Florida, Astronomy is also my hobby. I spent many hours answering kids’ questions online about Astronomy. I am a blogger and have recently published a book trying to inspire Brazilian teens to become scientists and following their dreams.