Pat Brennan
Pat Brennan - Science Writer

Education: BA degree in journalism, University of Arizona, 1984

Occupation: Science Writer at NASA JPL

What do you do on EW? “ I write stories and public engagement materials for the project, to be published on our public-facing sites. Also planning to help test associated software and perhaps even make a few light-curve observations.”

Why do you work on EW? “ I'm fascinated by all things exoplanet and excited to lend support to this citizen science endeavor. This project seeks to make exoplanet science accessible to everyone – you don't have to be a scientist to participate.”


John Engelke
John Engelke - 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 EW? “ 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 EW? “ 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 TNG, and this is a great way to help get us there one day!”


Tamim Fatahi
Tamim Fatahi - 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 EW? “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 EW? “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.”


Kyle Pearson
Kyle Pearson - Deputy Science Lead; EXOTIC Development Lead

Education: Ph.D. in Planetary Science

Occupation: Data Scientist at NASA JPL

What do you do on EW? “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 EW? “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.”


Jonah Rolfness
Jonah Rolfness - Undergraduate Intern

Education: Sophomore Undergraduate at Caltech, studying in Mechanical Engineering

Occupation: Exoplanet Watch Intern at NASA JPL

What do you do on EW? “I help contribute improvements to EXOTIC, our data reduction code, working specifically to add functionality to reduce and perform accurate photometry on color image data. I also work on creating an affordable and easy-to-use 6 inch telescope setup aimed at those without existing equipment or prior observing knowledge. As a part of this effort, I also work on creating instructional videos and walkthroughs to ensure that the project is accessible to everyone who wishes to contribute.

Why do you work on EW? “As an amateur astronomer and someone interested in science, I've always found myself drawn to citizen science projects and the great work they do. Exoplanet Watch is an amazing project that is allowing more people to join in the fun of getting to discover new worlds and contribute to important science, and I'm excited to be a part of it! Exoplanets have always been a particular fascination of mine, so I hope to be able to share that wonder and excitement with others through Exoplanet Watch with the work I do.”


Rob Zellem
Caltech Astronomy/Christophe Marcadé
Rob Zellem - 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 EW? “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 EW? “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 - 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 EW? “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.”

Why do you work on EW? “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.”


Former Team Members

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

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

  • Website content creation

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

  • EXOTIC software development

Aaron Tran - Undergraduate Intern (Caltech) - Summer 2020

  • EXOTIC software development

Exoplanet News