Introducing 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 optical flare rates and energies using data from the Evryscope, an ultra-wide survey of the entire visible sky every two minutes. The Evryscope has produced millions of high-cadence, multi-year stellar light-curves making feasible the long-term monitoring of nearby stars for superflares, flare rates, and starspot activity. He also works with Robo-AO, the first autonomous laser guide-star adaptive optics system, improving image quality for faint targets, particularly for follow-up of the faintest Kepler planetary candidates.

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. As an REU student at Baylor’s Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics, and Engineering Research, he studied protoplanetary disk evolution. He enjoys good books (esp. science fiction and fantasy), coffee, physics outreach, and running/hiking.

Introducing Sara Mazrouei

Sara Mazrouei is a PhD candidate in planetary geology at the University of Toronto. Her thesis focuses on the cratering rate on the Moon. She is a science team member on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Diviner team. Sara received her MSc. from York University, where she studied rocks on asteroid Itokawa using data from the Japanese Hayabusa mission. In between her master’s and PhD studies, Sara worked at the European Space Agency, calibrating radio science data from the Venus Express.

Introducing Simon Porter

Simon Porter (@ascendingnode) is a Research Scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. He is a Co-Investigator on NASA’s New Horizons extended mission to encounter the cold classical Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) 2014 MU69. On the mission, he focuses on the small satellites of Pluto, determining the orbit of 2014 MU69, and the other KBOs that New Horizons is passing along the way. This summer, he is supporting the stellar occultations of MU69s, in South Africa, aboard SOFIA, and in Patagonia. In addition to mission work, he studies the orbital and tidal dynamics of other binary and triple KBOs and Centaurs.

Simon is originally from Burlington, Ontario, Canada, and grew up there, Oxfordshire, and Tennessee. He received a BS in Physics from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and was a undergrad Space Grant intern at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He received his PhD in Astrophysics from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, and was a Predoctoral Fellow at Lowell Observatory. Simon enjoys hiking, aerospace history, and identifying obscure aircraft/rockets/spacecraft.

Introducing Nick Attree

Nick Attree (@nick_attree) is a postdoctoral researcher at the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille (@LAM_Marseille) in France. He works 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 uses 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 and coffee and exploring his new, adopted home in the sunny South of France!

Introducing Meenakshi Wadhwa

Meenakshi (Mini) Wadhwa (@minwadhwa) is Director of the Center for Meteorite Studies (@ASUMeteorites) and Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration (@SESEASU) at Arizona State University. Her research focuses on the origin and evolution of the Solar System and planets through geochemical and isotopic studies of meteorites, Moon rocks and other extraterrestrial samples returned by spacecraft missions. She has hunted for meteorites in Antarctica with the NASA- and NSF-funded Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) Program.

Mini holds a PhD in Earth and Planetary Science from Washington University in St. Louis. Following her doctorate, she was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California at San Diego, and was subsequently appointed as Curator of Meteorites at the Field Museum in Chicago. She moved to ASU in 2006 and has been there since. At ASU, she feels incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to work with some wonderfully talented students and colleagues, and loves the variety and the challenge afforded by the diverse responsibilities of her position. Outside of work, she enjoys outdoors activities; she loves hiking, running, biking and swimming. She received her pilot’s license (single engine rating) when she moved to Arizona, and enjoys scuba diving as well.

Introducing Will Armentrout

Will Armentrout (@WillArmentrout) is a doctoral student at West Virginia University in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. A graduate of Westminster College (@WestminsterPA), his roots are in Ford City, Pennsylvania, a glass town northeast of Pittsburgh. He’s in his last year of graduate school at WVU, studying high-mass star formation and Galactic HII regions with Prof. Loren Anderson (@Loren__Anderson). HII regions are areas of ionized gas surrounding young, high-mass stars and can help us to understand the structure, formation, and chemistry of galaxies. Will’s current project involves observing HII regions in the most distant molecular spiral arm within the Milky Way, known as the Outer Scutum-Centaurus spiral arm.

Will is spending this week at the Green Bank Telescope (@IamGBT), smack in the center of the National Radio Quiet Zone, which will certainly make tweeting a bit difficult! Primarily a radio astronomer, he is the principal investigator on projects with the GBT and the Very Large Array (@TheNRAO). He has recently moved into optical astronomy, though, with a project at the Gemini North Observatory (@GeminiObs).

Outside of research, he co-founded the West Virginia University Science Policy Organization (@WVUScience) in 2014. The group aims to open communication channels between university scientists and policy makers on the state and federal level and to also convey the importance (and excitement!) of basic and applied scientific research to the public. He also serves as president of the WVU Graduate and Professional Student Senate (@WVUGPSS), a group dedicated to keeping graduate students part of the larger campus conversation at WVU.

Introducing Zach Pace

Zach Pace (@zpacefromspace) just finished the third year of his PhD program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A native of Buffalo, NY, Zach received a B.S. in Physics and a B.A. in Mathematics from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 2014. His research interests include galaxy evolution, chemical enrichment histories, and stellar populations. He works with data from the SDSS-IV MaNGA survey, an integral-field spectroscopic program that will produce spectral maps of 10,000 nearby galaxies by 2020. He is an avid, daily programmer, and an avowed machine-learning enthusiast.

Zach is also interested in scientific education and outreach. He regularly gives public presentations and telescope sessions at state parks around Wisconsin, through the Universe in the Park program. He served from 2014-2016 as Vice-Chair of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, USA (SEDS-USA), an organization of nearly 50 college and university chapters dedicated to public engagement, career development, and science literacy. When not doing astronomy, Zach is often found reading, homebrewing, sailing, or playing pub quizzes (usually not simultaneously).