Kathleen E. Ford

Kathleen E. Ford


EMAIL: keford@bmcc.cuny.edu

Office: N-699T

Office Hours:

Phone: +1 (212) 776-6870

Professor K. E. Saavik Ford teaches astronomy at BMCC and mentors student researchers in projects analyzing Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN), or black holes expanding in the center of a galaxy. Under Professor Ford’s guidance, the students learn research protocols and plot new data relating to active galaxies that are bright enough to have their spectra measured by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescope in New Mexico.

Professor Ford also serves as a research associate in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History. She is a member of the doctoral faculty at the CUNY Graduate Center, a member of CUNY Astro and an invited member of the James Webb Space Telescope, Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectograph-Aperture Masking Interferometry (JWST NIRISS-AMI) Working Group. Former roles include having served as a Kavli Scholar at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

With a primary interest in structures that allow accretion onto black holes and how matter-fueling activity arrives in their nuclei, Professor Ford uses high-contrast, high-resolution imaging, and is working with a new kind of optical interferometric technique called non-redundant masking.

In addition to the awards listed below, Ford wrote and collaborated as co-Principal Investigator on the National Science Grant, AstroCom NYC: a partnership between CUNY, AMNH & Columbia. “It is a testament to the quality of the entire CUNY Astronomy faculty that we were awarded this highly competitive grant and that it was extended through 2018,” she says, “especially under the extremely tight federal budget conditions.”

From 2014-2016, Ford was Co-Principal Investigator on a grant through NASA’s New York Space Grant Community College Partnerships Program. This project built on the AstroCom NYC program and expanded it to other NASA-related STEM fields, focusing on student retention through student research preparation and mentoring. For both the NSF- and NASA-funded projects, Professor Ford served as the mentoring supervisor responsible for professional development workshops that enabled faculty to teach a critical research prep course for community college students, “Methods of Scientific Research.”

In July 2017, Saavik Ford was interviewed by Gadi Schwartz for NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt about the state of space exploration today. In 2009, she was among 13 astronomers in the United States selected by National Public Radio to talk about the Hubble Space Telescope. She lectures widely on her research into black holes and other related subjects.


Astronomy and Astrophysics (especially active galactic nuclei, accretion disks, black holes and other extreme objects), Gravitational Waves, Astro-Seismology and High-Contrast Imaging.


  • B.S. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Physics, 1998
  • M.S. The Johns Hopkins University, Physics and Astronomy, 2001
  • Ph.D. The Johns Hopkins University, Physics and Astronomy, 2003

Courses Taught

Research and Projects

Professor Ford does research on Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN)—galaxies which appear to have an accreting black hole and/or significant star formation in their nuclei. Her primary interest is in studying the structures that allow accretion onto black holes and how matter— fueling activity— arrives in the nucleus. Professor Ford works with a new kind of optical interferometric technique called non-redundant masking to produce high-contrast, high-resolution images. She also investigates the absorption of gravitational waves.


  • ‘Active Galactic Nucleus and Quasar Science with Aperture Masking Interferometry on the James Webb Space Telescope’ Ford, K.E.S, McKernan, B., Sivaramakrishnan, A., Martel, A.R., Koekemoer, A., Lafrenière, D., Parmentier, S. 2014, The Astrophysical Journal, 2014
  • ‘Migration Traps in Disks around Supermassive Black Holes’, Bellovary, J. M., Mac Low, M.-M., McKernan, B., Ford, K.E.S., The Astrophysical Journal, 2016
  • ‘Stars as resonant absorbers of gravitational waves’, McKernan, B., Ford, K.E.S., Kocsis, B., Haiman, Z.2014, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2014

Honors, Awards and Affiliations

  • 2016 CUNY Chancellor’s Research Fellowship
  • 2013-2015: Kavli Scholar, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, UC Santa Barbara
  • BMCC Faculty development award Jun 10-Jun 11 ‘Target Selection for JWST’ (PI)
  • 2003-2005: Carnegie Fellow, Carnegie Institution of Washington, DTM
  • 2002-2003: American Dissertation Fellow, American Assoc. of University Women
  • PSC-CUNY July 07- July 08 ‘Models and Observations of Molecular Emission from an Extrasolar Cometary System’ (PI)
  • BMCC Faculty Development Grant 2013 ‘Noise Considerations for Aperture Masking Interferometry on the James Webb Space Telescope’ (PI)
  • CIRG 2015 ‘Finding Intermediate Mass Black Holes in Quasar Disks with Gravitational Microlensing’ Ford (Co-I), O’Dowd (PI)
  • CUNY CCRI Sept 09-Jun 10 ‘Understanding accretion flows around black holes’ (co-PI)
  • BMCC Faculty development award Jun 07-Jun 08 ‘Innovative Methods for Reducing Spitzer Data from IRC+10216’ (PI)

Additional Information