Meet the Exoplanet Watch team

Jennifer Burt
Jennifer Burt (she/her) - Radial Velocity Lead

Education: BA in Astronomy from Cornell University, PhD in Astronomy & Astrophysics from UC Santa Cruz

Occupation: Extreme Precision Radial Velocity Investigation Scientist at JPL

What do you do on Exoplanet Watch? “I’m helping to expand the capabilities of Exoplanet Watch’s pipeline to simultaneously fit both transit and radial velocity (RV) data. This allows us to measure both the radius (from transit data) and mass (from the RV data) of the planet, providing a more complete picture of what kind of world we’re detecting.”

Why do you work on Exoplanet Watch? “I enjoy introducing new people to both the wonders and complications that come from working with RV data, and view Exoplanet Watch as a great way to increase community engagement with exoplanet science!”

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: recent Astrophysics graduate from Arizona State University

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.”

Former Team Members

Leah Albrow - Undergraduate Intern (University of Canterbury (New Zealand)) - Summer 2023

  • EXOTIC software development

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

Rachel Zimmerman-Brachman - Public Engagement Lead - 2019-23

  • Helped launch Exoplanet Watch to a general audience
  • Contacted various astronomy groups, clubs, and programs
  • Wrote monthly newsletters
  • Wrote monthly status reports

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