Meet the ExoExplorers
Research Area: characterize exoplanets with high-contrast imaging
Affiliation: University of Maryland
Bio: I am a second year PhD student at the University of Maryland, using JWST to discover and characterize exoplanets with high-contrast imaging. After receiving my Bachelor of Science in physics and astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin in 2017, I spent three years at NASA Headquarters developing space policy and research strategies to prepare for the human exploration of Mars, before transitioning to work in exoplanet direct-imaging at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. I’m also passionate about science communication and visualization, and am currently working on a series of astronomy info-comics titled “This Week in Astronomy!” Outside of science, I spend my time gardening, baking, and collecting National Park trails.
Clarissa Do O
Research Area: exoplanet direct imaging and instrumentation
Affiliation: UC San Diego
Bio: I am a third year Physics Ph.D. student and NSF Fellow at UC San Diego. I am originally from Brazil, and received my B.S. in Physics from UC Santa Barbara. My research interest is in exoplanet direct imaging and instrumentation. Specifically, I am interested in developing technologies that will allow us to better understand and characterize exoplanet formation and orbital architectures. I am also excited about science outreach and mentoring - which I do as a member of the Astrobites collaboration, as a coordinator of the UCSD Planetarium Shows and as part of the UCSD Cohort Mentoring Program. Outside of Astronomy, I enjoy ice skating, making coffee and learning new languages. For more information, please visit my website (clarissardoo.github.io).
Research Area: quantifying the systematic errors present in transiting exoplanets and their host stars
Affiliation: The Ohio State University
Bio: I am a 4th year PhD candidate in the astronomy department at The Ohio State University working with Prof. Scott Gaudi. I am from Maryland's rural and remote Eastern Shore and completed my bachelor's degree at the University of Maryland, College Park. My research focuses on quantifying the systematic errors present in transiting exoplanets and their host stars. I am passionate about mentorship and am involved with the Polaris mentorship program at OSU. Outside of astronomy I enjoy knitting, mosh pits, and rock climbing.
Junellie Gonzalez Quiles (she/her/ella)
Research area: Modeling outgassing to study the evolution of the atmospheric composition of exoplanets
Affiliation: Johns Hopkins University
Bio: I am a PhD Student and NSF Graduate Research Fellow in the Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and I moved to Maryland to pursue my Bachelor’s degree in Astronomy with a minor in Planetary Science at the University of Maryland, College Park. Before starting my PhD, I was a post-baccalaureate researcher at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. My current research focuses on modeling geochemical cycles and outgassing on exoplanets to help us understand the evolution of the atmospheric composition and its effect on planetary climate. I am deeply passionate about outreach, science communication and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, so I dedicate part of my time to contribute to these. Outside of work, I love to knit, embroider, and do other arts and crafts. I also play the trombone and have been playing for over 15 years!
Research Area: Architectures of multiple-planet systems
Affiliation: Indiana University
Bio: Hi there! I am a Ph.D. candidate at Indiana University, where I work with Professor Songhu Wang on statistical investigation of the role of orbital resonances in the evolution of multiple-planet systems. Before arriving at IU, I received my B.S. in Astrophysics from the University of Chicago and spent some time performing post-baccalaureate research at Northwestern University. My greatest passions lie at the front of a classroom, and there’s nothing I love more than promoting both access and excitement within STEM education, most specifically at the secondary and community college levels. Outside of astronomy, I love Star Wars, running, and all things basketball!
Michelle Kunimoto (she/they)
Research area: Exoplanet detection, characterization, and demographics
Affiliation: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Bio: I am a postdoctoral associate at MIT working on NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission. I received my PhD at the University of British Columbia, for which I developed an independent planet search and vetting pipeline for Kepler data and derived exoplanet occurrence rates including the abundance of potentially habitable planets around Sun-like stars. As a postdoc, my research is focused on finding and characterizing exoplanets with TESS. Through my ongoing TESS Faint Star Search, I have uncovered over 2500 new planet candidates so far. I am particularly interested in improving techniques for estimating occurrence rates to maximize what we can learn from exoplanet demographics, such as by combining constraints from multiple types of surveys and exoplanet detection methods in a joint analysis. I also lead MIT's Quick-Look Pipeline team, which is dedicated to extracting light curves and searching for exoplanets with TESS.
Research Area: radial velocity, removing stellar activity induced signals
Affiliation: UC Irvine
Bio: I am a PhD candidate at UC Irvine where I study exoplanets primarily through the Radial Velocity detection method. In particular, I am fascinated by the problem of stellar activity induced signals, which can mask true planetary signals causing false negatives, or worse masquerade as planetary signals causing false positives. I work on the problem of stellar activity from an analysis technique approach, building new software to help us disentangle the signals in our data sets. Beyond research, I am a co-leader of UCI’s Physics and Astronomy Community Excellence (PACE) program, a student led initiative that aims to paint a more holistic picture of success in grad school and strengthen our community across cohorts through managing a peer-mentoring network as well as a workshop series for our department’s new grad students each year. When outside the office, I enjoy hitting golf balls on the driving range and reading (and trying to write!) sci-fi short stories.
Research area: 3D climate simulations of temperate rocky exoplanets
Affiliation: University of Toronto
Bio: I am a PhD candidate in physics at the University of Toronto. I use the general circulation model ExoPlaSim to systematically explore the parameter space of temperate, tidally locked rocky planets to establish trends and isolate climate regimes. I create synthetic transit spectra from these simulations to show how different climate regimes might appear in exoplanet data. This work helps us understand the range of possible climate states a given planet could have and identify sources of uncertainty that will need to be accounted for when interpreting transit spectra. Before coming to the University of Toronto, I did my undergraduate degree in physics at McGill University, where I constructed an empirical infrared transit spectrum of Earth using satellite data to represent Earth as a transiting exoplanet.
Research Areas: Atmospheric transmission spectroscopy; planet formation by pebble accretion; science mission management
Affiliation: University of North Dakota
Bio: I am a Ph.D. candidate in Aerospace Sciences (Space Studies) at the University of North Dakota, pioneering the department’s exoplanet research. I originally hail from Long Island, New York and completed my bachelor’s degree at SUNY Geneseo. I am a passionate science educator having developed the astronomy undergraduate labs at Geneseo, drafted and delivered planetarium shows at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, and regularly teach the Space Studies department’s multidisciplinary introductory course. I work with North Dakota Space Grant Consortium part time as a STEM Ambassador where I can share my enthusiasm for exoplanets, astrobiology, and science communication to students of all ages. On the side, I enjoy mythology, folk music, and science fiction.
Research Area: modeling the atmospheres of exoplanets across the mass range
Affiliation: Carnegie Earth & Planets Laboratory
Bio: I am a Carnegie Postdoctoral Fellow at the Carnegie Earth & Planets Laboratory, Washington DC. I completed my Ph.D. in Astronomy at the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge (UK), working with Prof. Nikku Madhusudhan. Prior to graduate school, I did my undergraduate and masters degrees in Natural Sciences and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge. My research focuses on modeling the atmospheres of exoplanets across the mass range, from brown dwarfs to Jupiter-mass planets, mini-Neptunes and rocky worlds. I use a combination of self-consistent forward models and atmospheric retrievals to understand and infer the physical and chemical processes at play in these atmospheres, including atmosphere-interior interactions. I use these modeling techniques to interpret atmospheric observations, including recent JWST observations. I am excited by the exquisite new constraints which JWST will allow, from multidimensional processes in hot Jupiters to surface and interior conditions in low-mass exoplanets.
Pa Chia Thao
Area of research: detection and characterization of young (<1 Gyr) exoplanets using ground and space-based telescopes
Affiliation: University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Bio: I am a graduate student in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at UNC Chapel Hill. My work focuses on probing the atmosphere of young exoplanets through transmission spectroscopy. The greater goal is to study how planetary atmospheres change with time by comparing transmission spectra of young planets to their older counterparts. In my free time, I enjoy visiting national parks and going on hikes with my two dogs.
Area of research: Studying exoplanet compositions using polluted white dwarfs
Affiliation: University of California Los Angeles
Bio: I am a PhD candidate at UCLA where I study the bulk compositions of exoplanets using polluted white dwarf stars. My research involves combining simulations with observed data to reconstruct what these former exoplanet systems may have looked like. I am also excited about outreach and science communication, and am an author for Astrobites. In my free time I loves to knit, garden, and bake!