Meet the Previous ExoExplorers

2022 ExoExplorers

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  • Munazza Alam
    Munazza Alam (she/her)

    Research Area: I work on the detection and characterization of exoplanet atmospheres using Hubble and large ground-based telescopes. I am also interested in tracing giant planet origins via stellar abundance analyses.

    Affiliation: Carnegie Earth & Planets Laboratory

    Bio: I am a postdoctoral fellow at the Carnegie Earth & Planets Laboratory in Washington DC. I completed my Bachelors degree in physics & astronomy from CUNY Hunter College in 2016, and earned my PhD in astronomy & astrophysics from Harvard University in 2021. My work focuses on detecting and characterizing exoplanet atmospheres using observations from space-based and large ground-based telescopes. I am also interested in tracing giant planet origins via stellar abundance analyses. In my free time, I enjoy sketching, painting, and doing oil pastels.

  • Aida Behmard
    Aida Behmard (she/her/hers)

    Research Area: The chemical and dynamical evolution of planetary systems and their host stars

    Affiliation: California Institute of Technology

    Bio: I am a Planetary Science PhD student at Caltech, where I use observational and theoretical tools to investigate the chemistry of star and planet formation, exoplanet demographics, and galactic archaeology. I am also passionate about science outreach, and volunteer as a K-2nd grade science teacher at underserved Pasadena, CA public schools. When I'm not doing science, I like to hang out with my cat, Interstellar Medium ("Izzy" for short).

  • Kiersten Boley
    Kiersten Boley (she/her)

    Research Area: Planet occurrence with respect to metallicity and Mass-Radius Relationships

    Affiliation: The Ohio State University

    Bio: Hello! I am a Ph.D. Candidate and NSF Graduate Research Fellow at The Ohio State University where my research focuses on the impacts of elemental abundances on planet formation and evolution. I grew up in a rural part of northwest Georgia. I always thought space was fascinating and that the night sky was beautiful, but I was really more into playing with dirt and problem solving. So, it only seems fitting that I would become an exoplaneteer, encapsulating my true loves science and dirt. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work is something than I am also extremely passionate about, so a lot of my time is spent giving back to the community. When I’m not doing research or DEI work, I love scuba diving, painting, and playing with my pup!

  • Aarynn Carter
    Aarynn Carter (he/him)

    Research Area: Detection and Characterisation of Exoplanets with JWST

    Affiliation: University of California, Santa Cruz

    Bio: I am a post-doctoral scholar at the University of California, Santa Cruz. I was born in the United Kingdom and prior to relocating to the US I completed an MPhys at the University of Warwick, and a PhD in Physics at the University of Exeter. At present I am heavily involved with preparatory work for the exoplanet focused JWST Early Release Science programs. I am also excited for a range of JWST Cycle 1 GO programs I am involved with to detect and/or characterise exoplanets through direct imaging.

  • Quadry Chance
    Quadry Chance (he/him)

    Research Area: investigating exoplanet system architectures and the underlying formation pathways using a combination of simulations and observational data

    Affiliation: University of Florida

  • Matt Clement
    Matt Clement (he/him)

    Research Area: My research leverages orbital dynamics, in tandem with numerical simulations to decipher the formation and evolution of planetary systems.

    Affiliation: Carnegie Institution for Science's Earth and Planets Laboratory

    Bio: I am an astrophysicist and planetary scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science's Earth and Planets Laboratory (EPL) in Washington D.C. (formerly Carnegie DTM). I attended graduate school at the University of Oklahoma, where I worked with professor Nate Kaib. During graduate school I also spent a semester Bordeaux, France working with CNRS scientist Sean Raymond as part of the Chateaubriand Fellowship program. My research interests include the formation and dynamical evolution of planetary systems. In particular, I utilize N-body simulations to study the early evolution of the solar system. While much of my past research has been focused on the formation of the solar system’s terrestrial planets, I have recently become interested in habitability around low-mass stars. Prior to graduate school, I spent 5 years on active duty in the Navy, where I was stationed on the fast attack submarine USS TOPEKA (SSN-754). I first served as the ship's Chemistry and Radiological Controls Officer, and later as the Assistant Engineer. I was also a qualified Navy Scuba Diver. A highlight of this experience was surfacing through the polar ice and walking around at the North Pole during an arctic deployment.

  • Leonardo dos Santos
    Leonardo dos Santos (he/him)

    Research Area: Exoplanet atmospheres and evolution

    Affiliation: Space Telescope Science Institute

    Bio: I started my astronomical career back in my hometown in Brazil, and have since lived, studied, and worked in Netherlands, Switzerland, and the US. I fell in love with exoplanet science when I was working on radial velocities of binary stars, and have gradually moved to peering into exoplanet atmospheres with space- and ground-based spectrographs. More recently I have also dipped my toes in theoretical modeling. I am mostly interested in understanding the history of atmospheric escape and composition in hot or young planets, and ultimately its ties to habitability.

  • Alison Farrish
    Alison Farrish (she/her)

    Research Area: Simulation of exoplanet host star magnetic activity

    Affiliation: Goddard Space Flight Center

    Bio: I am a NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) fellow at Goddard Space Flight Center working in the Space Weather Lab. My research focuses on the application of solar and stellar physics to the space weather of exoplanet systems. In particular I work on modeling the magnetic activity and coronal emission of cool stars as inputs to models of planetary atmospheric and magnetospheric processes. In May 2021, I received my Ph.D. in physics and astronomy from Rice University in Houston, TX. Prior to that, I earned a Bachelor’s in astronomy from Cornell University.

  • Briley Lewis
    Briley Lewis (she/her)

    Research Area: Applying high-contrast imaging techniques to various problems in (exo-)planetary science, from debris disks to solar system objects and beyond

    Affiliation: University of California, Los Angeles

    Bio: Briley is a Ph.D. Candidate and NSF Fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles studying Astronomy & Astrophysics. Her research focuses on how we can apply techniques from high-contrast imaging to a variety of (exo-)planetary science topics, such as debris disks, solar system objects, and characterizing giant exoplanets. She is excited about science communication — particularly science writing — and is a member of the Astrobites collaboration, a coordinator for the UCLA Planetarium, and an organizer for ComSciCon-Los Angeles. Briley is also the first in her family to pursue a doctorate, and has a passion for teaching, with an emphasis on evidence-based pedagogy and ways to create an inclusive and equitable classroom. You can almost always find her hanging out with her sweet rescue dog, Rocky. Follow her on Twitter @briles_34 or visit her website www.briley-lewis.com.

  • Romy Rodriguez Martinez
    Romy Rodriguez Martinez (she/her)

    Research Area: Characterization of small, potentially terrestrial planets

    Affiliation: The Ohio State University

    Bio: Hello! I am a PhD candidate at The Ohio State University where I work with Professor Scott Gaudi. I was born in Cuba and raised in Puerto Rico, where I received a B.Sc. and master’s degree in Physics at the University of Puerto Rico. My research revolves around the characterization of small, potentially rocky exoplanets and using precise stellar and planetary properties in combination with stellar chemical abundances to infer properties about the interior structure and composition of such planets. Besides astronomy, I enjoy learning languages, playing piano, and chess.

  • Julia V. Seidel
    Julia V. Seidel (she/her)

    Research Area: I work on characterizing the dynamics of exoplanet atmospheres using high resolution transmission spectra.

    Affiliation: European Southern Observatory

    Bio: I focus mainly on the characterization of highly irradiated atmospheres, more specifically on what we can learn about the atmospheric composition and winds from high resolution transmission spectra. To that end, I aim to resolve planetary spectral lines as clean as possible to then retrieve the movement of the particles in the atmosphere from the line shape. Understanding exoplanetary winds ultimately helps us to shed light on how atmospheres evolve under intense irradiation and are the only laboratory we have for the state of the solar system during the late stages of the Sun's life.

  • Eckhart Spalding
    Eckhart Spalding

    Research Area: I work on high-contrast instrumentation for the direct or interferometric imaging of exoplanets.

    Affiliation: University of Notre Dame

    Bio: I am a postdoc in Dr. Jeff Chilcote’s research lab at the University of Notre Dame, where I am working on an upgrade of the Gemini Planet Imager instrument for a new direct imaging survey. Originally I am from a small town in Illinois, where I received my B.S. from Illinois College. I went on to teach at a secondary school in a pastoral region of Kenya, and then pursued graduate studies at the University of Kentucky and the University of Arizona. At Arizona I focused on the use of an interferometric observing mode of the Large Binocular Telescope to probe for companions around a nearby star. In addition to flushing out the data to explore other worlds, I am interested in learning how to attract and retain in the field first-generation college students or students from small institutions; how best to involve hardware-inclined students in hands-on instrumentation early on in their training; and how to facilitate the translational benefits of experience from areas outside academia, such as industry or the armed forces.

2021 ExoExplorers

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  • 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 Gonzales

    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 (blackinphysics.org) 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.