Image from Kepler 16b travel poster.

Meet the ExoExplorers

2021 ExoExplorers

  • David Coria
    David Coria

    Graduate student, University of Kansas

    Research area: My research focuses on measuring elemental and isotopic abundances in a variety of known and potential exoplanet host stars.

    Bio: Hi! I recently graduated as a Wildcat from Kansas State University back in May 2020 with a dual degree in Mathematics and Physics. Now, I’m a Jayhawk and first-year graduate student at the University of Kansas. I’ve always had an interest in exoplanetary science, because let’s be honest... who doesn’t think discovering and exploring new worlds is super cool? I was fortunate enough to earn a study abroad trip from the Hagan Scholarship Foundation back in 2019, and I took the opportunity to head to Sydney, Australia for a research practicum at the University of New South Wales with Dr. Chris Tinney and his group. Developing a quick data reduction app for the Veloce spectrograph, all while exploring the city, really reinforced the idea that exoplanetary science is exactly where I belong. I’m now on the road to a PhD in hopes of becoming an educator and lifelong exoplaneteer.

  • Rachel B. Fernandes
    Rachel B. Fernandes

    Graduate student, University of Arizona

    Research Area: Detection, Characterization and Demographics of Exoplanets

    Bio: I am a Ph.D. candidate at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory & the Department of Planetary Sciences at The University of Arizona where I work with Dr. Ilaria Pascucci and Dr. Gijs Mulders on the detection, characterization and demographics of exoplanetary systems using data from both ground- and space-based telescopes. My current research focuses on the detection and characterization of close-in, transiting young exoplanets with the Transiting Exoplanet Sky Satellite (TESS). I plan on comparing this population of young, close-in planets with that of Kepler's in order to better understand how these planets evolve with time.

  • Jules Fowler
    Jules Fowler

    Graduate student, UCSC

    Research Area: High contrast imaging and adaptive optics, currently focusing on coronagraph design and predictive control.

    Bio: Jules is a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where they are helping design and integrate a high contrast imaging testbed at the Lab for Adaptive Optics. Presently they are working on predictive control algorithms for adaptive optics and coronagraph design.

  • Amy Glaizier
    Amy Glazier

    Graduate student, UNC Chapel Hill

    Research Area: As an observational astronomer, I search for exoplanets and study how their host star systems affect their habitability.

    Bio: Amy Glazier is a doctoral student in Physics & Astronomy at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research revolves around understanding how stars affect their planets' habitability, using data from the all-sky gigapixel-scale Evryscopes built by Nicholas Law's group at UNC. She primarily focuses on the real-time impacts of stellar flares on planets orbiting M-dwarf stars. Amy earned her Bachelor of Arts in Physics at Austin College and her Associate of Science at Collin County Community College, both in her home state of Texas. She is a first-generation college graduate and the first in her family to pursue graduate education.

  • Eileen Gonzalez
    Eileen Gonzalez

    Postdoc, Cornell

    Research Area: Eileen's research focuses in understanding the atmospheres and fundamental parameters of brown dwarf and directly-imaged exoplanets.

    Bio: Dr. Eileen Gonzales is a 51 Pegasi b Fellow at Cornell University in the Department of Astronomy and the Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Sciences. She uses observational and theoretical techniques to understand the atmospheres of low-mass stars, brown dwarfs, and directly-imaged exoplanets. Using atmospheric retrievals, her current work aims to understand cloud properties as well as key chemical processes shaping the formation and evolution of directly-imaged exoplanets and low-gravity brown dwarfs. She received her Ph.D. in Physics from the City University of New York Graduate Center (CUNY GC) where she worked in the Brown Dwarfs in New York City (BDNYC) research group. Her dissertation focused on characterizing substellar subdwarf atmospheres using distance-calibrated spectral energy distributions and retrievals. Dr. Gonzales is also one of the co-founders and a lead organizer of Black In Physics ( and #BlackInPhysics week on Twitter, an initiative dedicated to not only celebrating Black physicists and our contributions but also to reveal a more complete picture of what a physicist looks like.

  • Samson Johnson
    Samson Johnson

    Graduate student, Ohio State

    Research Area: I am interested in exoplanet demographics and microlensing.

    Bio: I am a graduate student at Ohio State University and I did my undergrad at University of Montana. I mainly work on the Nancy Grace Roman Galactic Exoplanet Survey, which promises to teach us about planets widely separated from their host stars through the first space-based microlensing survey. I hope to generate excitement about the survey as it can teach us about a wide variety of planets in essentially unprobed areas of parameter space. These planets range from Earth-analogs to those unbound to any host stars. Finding these planets is vital in progressing our understanding of planet formation and could reveal previously undetectable populations of planets. Besides science, I do a lot of rock climbing and some cycling. I love to be in the mountains and outside as much as I can.

  • Caprice Phillips
    Caprice Phillips

    Graduate student, Ohio State

    Research Area: Detectability of biosignatures on super-Earths/sub-Neptunes with the James Webb Space Telescope

    Bio: I am a PhD student at The Ohio State University working with Professor Ji Wang. I received my M.A in Astronomy from UT Austin and B.S. in Physics from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. I was born and raised in Hot Springs, Arkansas, famous for its geothermal springs and historic bathhouses. When I'm not coding or working on research I enjoy reading, crafting, going out in nature, cooking, and trying my hand at new recipes. I also enjoy attending comic conventions to let out my inner nerd. I am passionate about social justice along with equity & inclusion work in astronomy and STEM in general.

  • Kaitlin Rasmussen
    Kaitlin Rasmussen

    Postdoc, Univ of Michigan

    Research Area: Characterization of Exoplanet Atmospheres

    Bio: Dr. Kaitlin Rasmussen is a post-doctoral researcher at University of Michigan. She received her B. Sci in Astrophysics from Florida State University and her PhD in Physics from University of Notre Dame. Her background is in stellar and nuclear astrophysics, and her current work is in developing new techniques for the characterization of exoplanet atmospheres. Dr. Rasmussen is also the PI of the Search for Exoplanets Around Metal-Poor Stars with T(r)ESS (SEAMSTRESS), a survey which seeks to explore the beginnings of planet formation in the Universe.

  • Quang Tran
    Quang Tran

    Graduate student, UT Austin

    Research Area: I use precision radial velocities in the NIR to detect and characterize young planets.

    Bio: I am a 3rd year graduate student at UT Austin. My primary research area is young exoplanet detection and characterization using precision radial velocities in the NIR. Through the ExoExoplorers program, I hope to learn how to better support underserved students in the exoplanet community (and beyond) through mentorship. I am excited to share my research expertise and learn from the diverse cohort of ExoExplorers and ExoGuides!

  • Jason Williams
    Jason Williams

    Graduate student, USC/Carnegie

    Research Area: Developing instrumentation to characterize exoplanets

    Bio: I was born and raised in Queens, New York where I developed a love for Arizona Iced Tea, dollar pizzas and (unfortunately) the Knicks. In 2017, I switched coasts and began my PhD at USC where I've been in residence at Carnegie Observatories working with Nicholas Konidaris on infrared instrumentation to precisely detect exoplanet atmospheres. When I'm not thinking about instruments or exoplanets, you can find me playing video games with friends, pretending to exercise, or having hope for the Knicks.