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José Antonio Flores-Velázquez (1994–2019)

Flores-Velázquez employed models of star-forming galaxies to estimate the time-scales over which hydrogen line and far-ultraviolet continuum observations are sensitive to star formation rates.

Published onDec 12, 2022
José Antonio Flores-Velázquez (1994–2019)

Photo credit: Jeysen Flores-Velázquez.

José Antonio Flores-Velázquez, a promising young doctoral student, was killed in a drive-by shooting near his family’s home in Los Angeles on Wednesday August 14, 2019. He was 24.

José Antonio Flores-Velázquez was born December 5, 1994, in South Los Angeles. Growing up, he dreamed of becoming a NASA researcher. With his sights set on that goal, after graduating from high school he enrolled in the physics program at California State Polytechnic University Pomona (CPP), as a first generation student supported by the Cal-Bridge Program. Flores-Velázquez’ potential as a scientist was recognized early on. His optimism and aptitude for research was quickly realized during internships at CPP, Harvard University and Northwestern University.

Upon earning his B.S. degree in 2018, Flores-Velázquez was admitted to the University of California Irvine (UCI), supported by a prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. He was regarded as an “incredibly promising student” at UCI by friends and faculty alike.

Just prior to his death, Flores-Velázquez had drafted a paper describing his use of supercomputer simulations to estimate the rate at which galaxies form stars during mergers. The goal of his project was to gauge the time scale over which Hα and far-ultraviolet continuum observations could be used to measure star formation rates in merging galaxies. His research was part of the Feedback In Realistic Environments (FIRE) project.

Flores-Velázquez’ first research paper was nearly complete at the time of his death. Finished by colleagues, it was posthumously published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society [1]. In recognition of his research, UCI posthumously awarded Flores-Velázquez an M.S. degree. In his memory, donors established an endowed fund to support incoming or current astrophysics graduate students at UCI.

Sadly, through a senseless act of violence, the astronomical community has lost a bright and promising young scientist. “José was a part of everyone's lives at home, at work and at school. He was the type of person that applied himself whenever and wherever he had the chance, only to bring joy to everyone’s life as it brought to him. His passion, determination, and joy for the field of physics was remarkable,” said his brother Jeysen Flores-Velázquez.

Flores-Velázquez is survived by his parents Ramon Flores-Velázquez and María Lucía Velázquez Domínguez, brothers Hector, Jeysen and Manuel Flores-Velázquez, and sister June Flores-Velázquez.

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