Katie Bouman is a computer scientist and researcher best known for capturing the first image of a black hole. The image was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). Bouman is credited with creating the algorithm that helped capture the image. As of 2019, she also taught computing and mathematical sciences at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
Katie Bouman was born in West Lafayette, Indiana, on May 9, 1989, to parents Charles and Christina Bouman. She grew up alongside her sister, Amanda Bouman. Bouman attended West Lafayette High School, graduating in 2007. Soon afterward, she attended the University of Michigan, where she chose to study electrical engineering. Bouman graduated with a bachelor's degree in 2011, and then attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for graduate studies. She received a master's degree in electrical engineering and computer science in 2013. Bouman continued studying at MIT, earning a doctorate degree in electrical engineering and computer science in 2017.
Work and Continued Studies
Bouman developed a specialized computer algorithm, the Continuous High-resolution Image Reconstruction using Patch priors, commonly called CHIRP. CHIRP was designed to stitch together data collected from powerful, precisely positioned radio telescopes across the world. Radio telescopes are designed to detect radio emissions from artificial satellites or natural celestial objects.
In 2016, Bouman delivered a TEDx talk entitled "How to Take a Picture of a Black Hole." Because black holes do not give off visible light, it was commonly believed that photographing one would be too difficult to accomplish. During her talk, Bouman discussed how CHIRP could be used with radio telescopes all over the world to potentially produce an image of a black hole. A black hole is an area in space with gravity so powerful that even light cannot escape.
Working with other scientists from MIT, Bouman continued working on using CHIRP to photograph a black hole. The process required more than three years of practice and algorithmic refinement. The team involved had to sort through "sparse and noisy" data and combine separate sets of data from multiple telescopes across Earth.
In 2019, Bouman's efforts were successful. Using CHIRP, Bouman and her team successfully produced an image of a black hole for the first time in history. The volume of data collected by the telescopes, including the data featuring the black hole, was far too large to transport over the Internet. Numerous hard drives had to be flown to a central location where the image was assembled. Once the picture of the black hole was revealed, the event quickly made headlines. Bouman and her team received significant media attention.
Beginning in 2019, Bouman accepted a position as an assistant professor at the Computing and Mathematical Sciences Department at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Additionally, as of 2019, she developed new systems for computational imaging. Bouman married Joe Leong in 2019.
- "First-Ever Black Hole Picture Proves the Power of Science, Says Former NASA Astronaut," Fox News, www.foxnews.com/science/first-ever-black-hole-picture-proves-the-power-of-science-says-former-nasa-astronaut (Accessed April 11, 2019).
- "How Katie Bouman Accidentally Became the Face of the Black Hole Project," New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/11/science/katie-bouman-black-hole.html (Accessed April 11, 2019).
- "Katie Bouman," California Institute of Technology, https://people.csail.mit.edu/klbouman/ (Accessed April 11, 2019).
- "This Is the First Photo of a Black Hole," CNN, www.cnn.com/2019/04/10/world/black-hole-photo-scn/index.html (Accessed April 11, 2019).