Meet the Exoplanet Watch team

Leah Albrow
Leah Albrow (she/her) - Undergraduate Intern

Education: Honours student at the University of Canterbury (New Zealand) for astrophysics

Occupation: Exoplanet Watch Intern at NASA JPL

What do you do on Exoplanet Watch?: "I have been working on quantifying the uncertainty for all transiting exoplanets on the exoplanet archive to determine which exoplanets are suitable targets for upcoming campaigns, and making tools o increase the usability of the online EXOTIC notebooks."

Why do you work on Exoplanet Watch? "I am passionate about astronomy and love working on citizen science related projects as it connects communities and empowers people to learn about the world around them. I also find the idea of planets that are very different from Earth exciting and want to learn more about them."

John Engelke
John Engelke (he/him) - CITISENS Development Lead

Education: B.Sc. Physics and Communications with minors in Math and Computer Science from Cal Poly Pomona

Occupation: Software Development and Engineering Specialist at Raytheon (JPL Contractor)

What do you do on Exoplanet Watch? “I work on architecture, programming and problem solving. My role is to take science intent and translate it to the nuts and bolts of a reliable software system. This involves everything from designing how different pieces integrate together to writing code to building out server functionality. I write Python code for things like distributing research results to Cloud-based systems, organizing data into computer-readable formats and parallelizing complex algorithms to make them run faster.”

Why do you work on Exoplanet Watch? “It's a personal goal to help better the world by helping science, and Exoplanet Watch is a great opportunity to participate in the leading edge of new astronomy research. Besides that, I'm enamored with Star Trek The Next Generation, and this is a great way to help get us there one day!”

Tamim Fatahi
Tamim Fatahi (he/him) - Undergraduate Intern

Education: Junior Undergraduate at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, majoring in Computer Science

Occupation: Exoplanet Watch Intern at NASA JPL

What do you do on Exoplanet Watch? “I work on Exoplanet Watch's data reduction pipeline, EXOplanet Transit Interpretation Code (EXOTIC). Adding features to the reduction process and designing the user interface are some of my objectives regarding the pipeline. I also aid in searching for an affordable way to allow citizen scientists to gather data from transiting exoplanets.”

Why do you work on Exoplanet Watch? “It's incredible to partake in the expanding research field for exoplanets, driving me to learn something new every day. I also admire Exoplanet Watch's ability to bridge the gap between the professional environment and those of many different educational backgrounds.”

Izzy Huckabee
Isabella "Izzy" Huckabee (she/her) - Undergraduate Intern

Education: rising senior at Arizona State University majoring in Astrophysics

Occupation: Exoplanet Watch Intern at NASA JPL

What do you do on Exoplanet Watch? "I’ll be working on TESS data to bring it to CITISENS. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is detecting thousands of exoplanet candidates, and Exoplanet Watch can help confirm which of these candidates are really exoplanets by having citizen scientists do follow up observations to confirm their existence."

Why do you work on Exoplanet Watch? "Ironically enough, I hated astronomy as a kid - the vastness of space is terrifying to me! However, in the end, my fear was trumped by my curiosity about worlds beyond our solar system. The big question that motivates my work on Exoplanet Watch is ‘How can we create a welcoming astrophysics community and open up the doors of astrophysics to everyone?’"

Kyle Pearson
Kyle Pearson (he/him) - Deputy Science Lead; EXOTIC Development Lead

Education: Ph.D. in Planetary Science

Occupation: Data Scientist at NASA JPL

What do you do on Exoplanet Watch? “I assist in the development and management of the Exoplanet Watch citizen science project, a collaboration between amateur astronomers, colleges, and universities, and professional astronomers to perform ephemerides maintenance on transiting exoplanets to ensure the efficient use of professional observatory time.”

Why do you work on Exoplanet Watch? “The existence of worlds beyond our own has been a subject of fascination and inspiration since I was younger and started because of Star Wars. We have the ability to observe these exoplanets from our own backyard and I want to teach people how.”

Rob Zellem
Caltech Astronomy/Christophe Marcadé
Rob Zellem (he/him) - Project Lead

Education: BS in Astronomy & Astrophysics (Villanova University); MSc in Space Science (University College London); PhD in Planetary Science (University of Arizona - Lunar & Planetary Laboratory)

Occupation: Exoplanet Astronomer at NASA JPL

What do you do on Exoplanet Watch? “I am the Project Lead for Exoplanet Watch as well as a contributor to our data reduction software, EXOTIC, and our analysis pipeline, CITISENS.”

Why do you work on Exoplanet Watch? “I absolutely love sharing my work and research with the general public. I am excited to see the measurement precision capabilities of amateur astronomers and am delighted to help them support the science of transiting exoplanet missions and ground-based observatories.”

Rachel Zimmerman-Brachman
Rachel Zimmerman Brachman (she/her) - Public Engagement Lead

Education: Bachelor's degree in Physics from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and a Master of Space Studies from the International Space University in Strasbourg, France.

Occupation: Solar System, Earth, Exoplanets, and Technology Public Engagement Specialist at NASA JPL

What do you do on Exoplanet Watch? “I work on public engagement for Exoplanet Watch, raising awareness of the opportunity for people to participate in exoplanet studies as citizen scientists, and making hands-on science accessible to as many people as possible. I communicate with project participants on our Slack, participate in bi-weekly all-hands meetings, update the website, and write the monthly newsletter. I also report the project's successes to our sponsor, NASA's Universe of Learning, a SciAct project funded by NASA and run by the Space Telescope Science Institute. Exoplanet Watch is run by astronomers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.”

Why do you work on Exoplanet Watch? “I think observing exoplanets is very exciting. It's amazing how much we can learn from studying how a star's brightness changes when a planet passes in front of it. When I was studying physics in university in the 1990's, no exoplanets had been discovered yet. The field of exoplanet exploration is changing very rapidly. Now that we know how to detect exoplanets, we're finding them almost everywhere we look in the night sky. I'm glad to be able to share hands-on exoplanet exploration opportunities with members of the public. Anyone can explore exoplanets, and we're here to help you learn about these fascinating worlds beyond our solar system.”

Former Team Members

Nora Bailey - Public Engagement - 2022-23

  • Helped launch Exoplanet Watch to a general public audience

Ethan Blaser - Undergraduate Intern (University of Virginia) - Summers 2018 and 2019

  • EXOTIC software development

Alexandra Iturralde - Undergradute Intern (University of New Mexico) - Summer 2019

  • Content creation and development

Kiah May - Undergraduate Intern (University of Colorado - Boulder) - Summer 2022 - Spring 2023

  • EXOTIC software development
  • Content creation and development

Tiana James - Undergraduate Intern (Howard University) - Fall 2020 - Summer 2021

  • Website content creation

Jonah Rolfness - Undergraduate Intern (Caltech) - Summer 2021 - Spring 2022

  • Exoplanet Watch telescope instructions
  • EXOTIC software development

Marlee Smith - Undergraduate Intern (Cornell) - Summer 2020 - Spring 2021

  • EXOTIC software development

Aaron Tran - Undergraduate Intern (Caltech) - Summer 2020

  • EXOTIC software development

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