Introducing Nick Attree

Nick Attree (@nick_attree) is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Stirling in Scotland, working on thermal modelling in support of the InSight mission. InSight, which lands on Mars on the 26th November, will measure subsurface temperatures up to 5 m deep in order to determine the geothermal heat flow, as well as measuring Mars-quakes! The group at Stirling is interested in the physical and mechanical properties of the upper regolith layers, and how these affect the heat flow measurements.

Nick worked previously at the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, in the south of France, on the MiARD (Multi Instrument Analysis of Rosetta Data) project, using modelling and data from ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft to explore the physical and mechanical properties of comet 67P. In particular, he used OSIRIS camera images to analyse surface features, such as overhanging cliffs and fractures, to investigate the mechanical strength of the nucleus material, as well as navigation and position data, to measure the effects of outgassing on the comet’s orbit.

Nick completed his PhD at Queen Mary University of London, working with Cassini data on collisions in Saturn’s F ring. Before that, he obtained his MPhys degree in Physics with Planetary Science from Leicester University.

Outside of research, he enjoys football (watching and playing), walking, reading, sci-fi, music, coffee & cake, and exploring new places in Scotland!


Reintroducing Ward Howard

Ward Howard is a PhD candidate in physics and astronomy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He researches the impact of stellar activity on the detection and habitability of exoplanets around nearby stars by measuring their flare rates using data from the Evryscopes, an ultra-wide survey of the entire visible sky every two minutes. Evryscope-South has produced millions of high-cadence, multi-year light-curves, making feasible long-term monitoring of starspots, star-planet interactions, and large flares, including a superflare from our nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri, which bathed its terrestrial planet Proxima b with lethal doses of UV radiation. Evryscope-North is now also active, which Ward helped to deploy earlier this year in collaboration with SDSU.

Ward is also excited by the synergies between visible-light Evryscopes and radio telescopes in understanding stellar activity and space weather. This combination allows us to look for exoplanet magnetic fields and investigate mysterious sub-mm flares observed on red dwarfs and what they might mean for habitable exoplanets.

Ward grew up in High Point, NC and was initially inspired to study astronomy by the friendly and enthusiastic staff of the Jamestown, NC Cline Observatory. In 2015, Ward received a BS in physics and mathematics from Union University in Jackson, TN. He enjoys good books (esp. science fiction and fantasy), coffee, physics outreach, and running/hiking.

Introducing Emma Alexander

Emma Alexander (@Emma_Alexander) is a radio astronomer studying the magnetic fields of radio galaxies. She is currently doing her PhD at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics (University of Manchester, UK), working on POSSUM, the POlarisation Sky Survey of the Universe’s Magnetism. POSSUM is of the projects currently being undertaken with ASKAP, the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder telescope, and covers a wide range of polarisation and magnetism science. Emma focuses on well-resolved radio galaxies and the magnetic fields of their lobes, which are radio-bright structures extending from the central Active Galactic Nucleus (AGN).

Emma also has a background in amateur astronomy, but doesn’t get the chance to get out of the city as often as she’d like to observe. She is also active in scientific outreach – both in person and through media – including appearances on national radio and working on the Jodcast (@Jodcast), an astronomy podcast run by Jodrell Bank astronomers. Outside of astronomy, she enjoys playing netball, cooking & baking vegan foods, and looking after her pets: two guinea pigs and a cat.

Introducing Jo Barstow

Jo Barstow is a specialist in exoplanet atmospheres, with a particular interest in spectral retrievals and cloud properties. She is currently a Royal Astronomical Society Research Fellow at University College London, performing comparative studies of exoplanet atmospheres. She balances part time work with caring for her toddler daughter. Although she doesn’t get much time for it at the moment, she is also a keen amateur singer, actress and musician and is now an expert sheet music/toddler juggler.

Introducing Bruce Macintosh

Bruce Macintosh is an astronomer studying extrasolar planets with high-contrast imaging. His PhD was at UCLA graduating in 1994, when UCLA was first starting its world-class infrared instrumentation lab – Bruce worked on the Gemini 2-channel IR camera for Lick Observatory. After that, he took a postdoc at Lawrence Livermore National Lab and then becomes a staff scientist at LLNL through 2013. At LLNL he worked on adaptive optics systems at Lick and Keck Observatory, and was one of the founders of the NSF Center for Adaptive Optics.

Together with Christian Marois, Bruce led the team that used Keck adaptive optics to make the first-ever images of an exoplanet system – the four young giant planets orbiting HR8799. He is the Principal Investigator for the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), an advanced AO coronagraph now on the Gemini South Telescope carrying out a survey for young planets. He also co-leads a coronagraph science team for the WFIRST instrument. He is active in astro science policy, having served on the ground-based optical/IR panel for the 2010 Decadal Survey, the Mid-Decadal Survey, and the just-completed Exoplanet Science Strategy panel.

Introducing Christian Schaller

Christian Schaller is the lead software developer for the HiRISE operations group at the Lunar and Planetary Lab at the University of Arizona. He specializes in mission planning and instrument commanding software. In addition to developing the HiRISE planning tools, he is currently developing similar tools for the CaSSIS camera for the University of Bern, one of the instruments aboard the ESA ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter. He likes cats, robotic space exploration, prog rock, and Dungeons and Dragons.

Introducing Henry Ngo

Henry Ngo (@AstroDino; is a Plaskett Postdoctoral Fellow working at the National Research Council of Canada’s Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Centre in Victoria, British Columbia. In addition to typing out extremely long affiliations, he is interested in the origin and evolution of giant exoplanets. Specifically, he uses the direct imaging method to search for planetary and binary star systems to reveal clues about planetary histories.
Henry is passionate about outreach and enjoys visits to Victoria-area public schools. He regularly thinks and tweets about the role of scientists in society, work-life balance for early career academics, creating a equitable, inclusive and diverse academic community, and the adventures of being a parent to a 1-year-old.