(University of California, Berkley)
As an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, Nathan majored in music and also studied some astronomy when there was extra time late at night. After playing classical music in India for a spell and touring the US in a painfully loud rock band for a few years, he finally was overtaken by his fascination with stars. He earned Bachelor's degrees in music and astronomy from Minnesota in 1997, received a Master's in astronomy from Boston University in 1999, and came back to Minnesota to finish a Ph.D. in astronomy in 2002. He was then a NASA Hubble Fellow at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and is currently a postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley.
In his observational research, he uses Hubble as well as several ground based telescopes. He notes that one of the perks of studying Eta Carinae and the Carina Nebula is that they can only be seen from the southern hemisphere, requiring frequent trips to mountaintop observatories in Chile, among other exotic places. When not doing research in astronomy, Nathan enjoys playing experimental free jazz music, painting, climbing mountains, and questioning the authority of the government that supports his science.
The image of NGC 3324 was a composite of ACS data taken by Nathan Smith and collaborators and WFPC2 data taken by the Hubble Heritage Team (2008).