Introducing Jessica Noviello

Jessica Noviello (@jessicanoviello) is a third-year PhD candidate at the School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ. Her research focuses on chaos on Jupiter’s ocean moon, Europa, and how it relates to heating patterns within icy moons. How chaos forms is still an open question due to a lack of high-resolution imaging at a global or regional scale, but evidence strongly indicates that liquid water is involved in its creation. Knowing the global distribution of chaos better will help refine chaos formations models to learn about how heat and liquid water are transported within an icy shell, which has implications for planetary evolution and astrobiology. Besides Europa and other icy moons, her academic research interests include asteroids, paleontology, and statistics.

Jessica received her BS degree from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD in Physics and Earth and Planetary Sciences. While there she was the first student accepted to the new Space Science and Technology minor program, which she helped to develop and popularize. She actively pursues opportunities for science communication by sharing scientific updates on social media and volunteering for organizations like Science Olympiad. When she is not absorbed in her Europa research, Jessica enjoys hiking, reading, playing board games and heckling bad science-fiction movies with her friends, and practicing Krav Maga.

Introducing Fiona Panther

Fiona Panther is a PhD student at the Australian National University’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics in Canberra, Australia. Her work spans theoretical, computational and observational astrophysics, and she focuses on understanding how positrons propagate in astrophysical plasmas and galactic outflows, how host galaxy environments influence peculiar thermonuclear supernovae and their progenitors, and how the rates of peculiar supernovae vary over cosmic time. She is a member of the SkyMapper telescope team, based at ANU, as well as the Dark Energy Survey and the related spectroscopic followup survey OzDES.

She was born in Northumberland in the UK, and emigrated to New Zealand with her family when she was 15. She received a BSc(Hons) degree in mathematics and physics from the University of Auckland. Her honours project focussed on the effects of General Relativity on the dynamics of the Milky Way’s nuclear star cluster. She moved to Australia in mid-2015 to start her PhD at ANU.

Fiona contributes a substantial amount of time to education and outreach. She has worked as a teaching assistant, laboratory demonstrator and guest lecturer at both the University of Auckland and the Australian National University for a number of courses. She particularly enjoys working with school groups that visit the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and was among those who helped prepare Mt Stromlo’s Visitor Center for its reopening in September 2016.

Outside of astronomy, Fiona has a strong interest in mathematics, computational techniques and bibliometrics. When not working on her PhD, she can be found playing ultimate frisbee or exploring Canberra on her bike.

Introducing Leo Burtscher

Leo was born in Austria but grew up in both California and Germany. After finishing his PhD at MPIA in Heidelberg he moved to Garching to work on the next generation VLTI GRAVITY interferometer. He is now a faculty member at Sterrewacht Leiden working on instruments for the European Extremely Large Telescope as well as continuing his research into the central regions of active galactive nuclei.

Reintroducing Jonathan Fortney

Jonathan Fortney is a Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of California, Santa Cruz, and the director of their Other Worlds Laboratory ( He received his PhD in Planetary Sciences in 2004 from the University of Arizona and was a postdoc for 4 years at NASA Ames Research Center before starting at UC Santa Cruz in 2008.

Jonathan’s major fields of interest are the atmospheres, interiors, spectra, composition, and evolution of planets, both inside and outside the solar system.  He focuses on modeling and theory of these objects, with targets that range from terrestrial planets to brown dwarfs.  He was a member of the Kepler Science Team during its prime mission and is currently a member of the Cassini Science Team.

Introducing Steven Rieder

Steven Rieder (@rieder) is a postdoctoral researcher at RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science in Kobe, Japan. He is a computational astronomer, investigating the interaction of objects on scales from planetary dust rings to the cosmic web. His simulation tool-of-choice for this is AMUSE : a Python interface to a range of community codes.
Born in the Netherlands, Steven did his MSc at Utrecht University and his PhD at Leiden University, on a combined astrophysics/computation science project. Parallel to his PhD, he was the editor of Dutch astronomy youth magazine “Universum” and a board member of the Dutch Youth Association for Astronomy “JWG”. He is an amateur observer, currently without access to a telescope. In no specific order, he is fond of photography, board games, cycling, exploring Japan, guitars and bunnies.

Introducing Abigail Stevens

Abigail Stevens is a PhD candidate at the Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. She researches X-ray spectral variability from compact objects (stellar-mass black holes and neutron stars) in order to understand the extreme physics in strong gravitational fields, and is very excited for NICER to be launched in a few months. Abbie is also a “pythonomer” and is involved in the open science community. Previously, Abbie did her MSc at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and her BA at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, USA. In addition to her astronomy research, she enjoys tea, interior design, memes, reading blogs, watching tv, and exploring new places.

Introducing John Bochanski

John Bochanski is an Assistant Profesor of Physics at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.  His astronomy research is focused on using cool stars (both dwarfs and giants) to understand the structure and dynamics of the Milky Way.  John has primarily used survey data, including the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, 2MASS, UKIDSS and others.  In addition to his survey work, John helped build and commission FIRE, an IR spectrograph on the Magellan telescopes.  John also periodically writes for Sky & Telescope.