Mr. Ashish Mahabal

Los Angeles

Qualification - PhD Astronomy


About -

Astronomer and Senior Computational Scientist at Center for Data-Driven Discovery, California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena, California, USA.

Astronomer, Data Scientist, Science Fiction author.

Converting data to knowledge using machine learning, whether it is at the scales of galaxies or cells.

Dr. Ashish Mahabal is a Senior Research Scientist at the Astronomy Department of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), in Pasadena, USA. He got his PhD at IUCAA, Pune in 1998, and after a one-year postdoc at Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmadabad, he moved to Caltech.  He has participated in several large area sky surveys. His main area of expertise is data-mining for and classification of transient astronomical sources. He actively collaborates with astronomers in several continents for follow-up observations. He was one of the founder members of the US National Virtual Observatory (NVO) and continued to be involved in the Technology Assessment and data-mining aspects of the Virtual Astronomy Observatory (VAO) into which NVO evolved. More generally, he is interested in informatics, virtual worlds and educational outreach.

Ashish has a PhD in astronomy. He has been working on data from large sky surveys for close to 20 years starting from Digitized Palomar Observatory Sky Survey, Catalina Real-time Transient Survey, and Large Synoptic Survey Telescope etc. He was part of the Catalina Real-time Transient Survey (CRTS). The parent survey - Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) has been looking for Near Earth Asteroid, asteroids that could endanger Earth. The survey has discovered thousands of asteroids. To recognize his work in the field, an asteroid has been given his name, Mahabal(discovery name 90472 - 2004 CT99).

Besides the scientific papers and popular science articles, Dr. Ashish has been writing science-fiction in Marathi for the last few years. He writes short-stories, mostly hard sci-fi, and they have been published in leading Marathi magazines as well as well-known online sites, and a few anthologies. He has also written some travelogues, including a few that are predominantly picture-based.

Dr. Ashish has served on the Maharashtra Mandal Los Angeles (MMLA) committee, and was a founder trustee. The mandal ran a Marathi library for several years that Ashish helped initiate with the help of few others, including Anu.

He is a founder member of LAMAL, a group that has been meeting once every two months for over ten years where members write in Marathi on a predefined topic.

He is also part of sci-fi katta, an online group of Marathi sci-fi authors (mostly from Maharashtra, only 2-3 from outside). He fondly talks of the feedback received from this group that has helped his fiction writing, and thanks Meghashri Dalvi for keeping the group on its toes. Dr. Bal Phondke introduced him to the group. Niranjan Ghate has encouraged him to write more, and Subodh Jawadekar has helped him through various discussions.

Dr. Ashish has dabbled in creating music through software, and is interested in watching and identifying birds wherever he travels. This hobby, interestingly, started in Ahmedabad. Though an arid region, the Navrangpura area that they lived in was like an oasis and attracted tens of species.

Privious Mentoring Experience -

Principles he values most:

“One should be capable of thinking for oneself. One should have a healthy skepticism, and not believe in anything/everything that one is told or reads. Asking oneself questions like ‘can this really be true?’ and ‘is this supported by what we know?’ is critical”.

“I believe in humanity. There should be no national boundaries. Research has shown that there are more variations within a race, than there are across humanity. I am connected to India as I am to the US, but I treat myself as a universal being. सारे विश्वची माझे घर”.

Core belief: general and professional

“I am a believer in the requirement of reproducibility and transparency in research. Data should be shared, and so should the methods and procedures”.

Philanthropic, Social work:

On a professional level he has several collaborations with Indian scientists, astronomers as well as some in Earth sciences. He also gives popular lectures on various topics during his visits to India. He has friends in Nagpur who are involved in various social tasks. He is in constant touch with them and participates in various activities.