Meet DiRAC’s Research Team: Dr. James Davenport

DiRAC is pleased to introduce the new Associate Director of our Institute, Professor James (Jim) Davenport. Davenport received his PhD from the University of Washington in 2015, working on exploring magnetic activity from low-mass stars using NASA’s Kepler mission. He was then awarded a NSF postdoctoral fellowship at Western Washington University, and returned to UW in the inaugural class of DiRAC postdoctoral fellows in 2017.

Prof. Davenport’s research focuses on stars within our own Milky Way, using “time domain” astronomy techniques with large surveys such as NASA’s Kepler and TESS missions, and the ZTF survey. He is best known for exploring the evolution of “magnetic activity” as stars age, particularly in studying the declining rate of powerful stellar flares over time. 

In his most recent paper, Prof. Davenport and collaborators from UW used new data from the TESS mission to revisit one of the most prominent flare stars from the original Kepler mission, a small red dwarf named GJ 1243. These datasets give two precise point-in-time estimates of the flare rate for GJ 1243, over a span of 10 years, and found that unlike our Sun, GJ 1243 does not appear to show any variation in its flaring behavior. This has opened new lines of exploration for Prof. Davenport and his group, searching for changes in stellar flare rates over decades of observations.

Davenport currently leads a group of graduate and undergraduate researchers in a range of data-intensive studies of the active lives of nearby stars, including projects on eclipsing binary stars, variability from massive stars, detecting rotating stars, and studying stellar flares. He is currently working on a review of variable star astronomy for the public with TESS. Davenport is also interested in developing methods to search for signs of life in the universe – particularly for intelligent life – using tools developed for “traditional” data intensive astronomy. 

For the coming year he will be leading the DiRAC Time Domain research group in their collaborative search for mysterious “dipper” stars from the ZTF survey.

After three years of careful and thoughtful guidance by the outgoing Associate Director, Dr. Daniela Huppenkothen, DiRAC has developed a wonderfully collaborative and productive atmosphere for researchers studying a wide range of topics. Prof. Davenport is excited to take on the role of Associate Director for DiRAC. He hopes to build on this foundation, encouraging new and novel collaboration from researchers and students, and most importantly to foster an inclusive institute that places the value of people above all else.

Prof. Davenport lives north of Seattle with his family, and in the mornings can often be found drinking coffee and writing at Cafe Solstice on the Ave. He also produces a YouTube series called “Astro Vlog” that showcases the work and life of an astronomer, and can be found on Twitter @jradavenport.