Introducing Steph LaMassa

Dr. Steph LaMassa is a Support Scientist at STScI who works on one of the instrument teams for JWST. Steph’s research focuses on the growth and evolution of supermassive black holes and how they co-evolve with their host galaxies. Steph is also interested in learning how highly variable active galactic nuclei provide insight into black hole feeding habits.
Dr. LaMassa organizes and hosts Astronomy on Tap DC (@AstroOnTapDC), which is an outreach event where astronomers give short, fun talks in a bar! When not working or doing public outreach, Steph enjoys running (albeit very slowly), reading, and going to concerts.

Introducing Laura Mayorga

Dr. Laura Mayorga (@mayorgalc) is a Harvard Future Faculty Leaders Fellow based at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. She is interested in exploring the diversity in exoplanet atmospheres by using Solar System objects as analogs for their exoplanet counterparts. From flyby data of Jupiter taken by the Cassini Spacecraft she is laying the groundwork comparison dataset needed to understand the underlying, unresolved phenomena in the atmospheres and on the surfaces of planets around other stars.
A lover of accents and languages if she can’t be Cdr. Spock she would be Lt. Uhura. When not engaged in science research and communication, she enjoys cycling to the closest beach, crocheting the next unfinished project, or playing video games at home where her first duty is to be a warm lap to a caliby named Stellar. She finds the rules for what makes something a cookie vs. a biscuit fascinating and she plays the ocarina while traveling, where the cat won’t try to stop her.

Introducing Bryan Méndez

Bryan Méndez is an astronomer & education specialist at UC Berkeley’s Space Science Laboratory. Dr. Méndez works to educate and inspire others about the wonder and beauty of the Universe. He develops programs for the public through the web and museums; develops educational resources for students, teachers, and the public; conducts professional development for science educators; and teaches courses in astronomy and physics at UC Berkeley and local community colleges.

 The beautiful night sky in his hometown of Traverse City, Michigan inspired Bryan to study astronomy. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1997 with degrees in Astronomy, Physics, and Music. He then continued his studies at the University of California at Berkeley, graduating in 2002 with a Ph.D. in Astrophysics. Dr. Méndez researched the distribution of galaxies in the nearby Universe and its implications for the overall structure of the Cosmos.

He is husband to his best friend and love of his life, father of the most precious twin boys in all the cosmos, a sci-fi/fantasy geek with particular obsessions for Star Wars and Star Trek, a saxophonist, an aspiring filmmaker, and a Californian transplanted from Michigan. Bryan is bicultural, of Mexican and European backgrounds, and strives to foster diverse perspectives in his work.

Introducing Kovi Rose

Kovi Rose is a final year physics undergraduate at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is a research assistant, in the Racah Institute of Physics, on an observational astrophysics team that uses radio telescopes to study core-collapse supernovae. In order to create a more extensive catalogue of supernovae and other bright radio sources, the team monitors the discoveries and classifications of low redshift astronomical transients, conducting follow-up observations and analyses of the radio emissions coming from these stellar objects.

Having noticed the increasing trend of anti-intellectualism and science denial, Kovi developed a passion for science communication and outreach. After the creation of @funfactscience, a Facebook/Twitter/Instagram science communication platform, Kovi has worked with an international team science communicators and educators on a number outreach campaigns; centered around topics like women in STEM and astronomy.

Outside of his online efforts, Kovi works for the Ramon Foundation in a project-based learning program which culminates in the launch of an experiment to the International Space Station. In his remaining free time Kovi volunteers with the HORIZON space educators community as well as SpaceIL, the privately funded Israeli nonprofit set to land a spacecraft on the Moon in February 2019.

Introducing Gourav Khullar

Gourav Khullar (@isskywalker, Pronouns: he/him) is a PhD Candidate at the University of Chicago, affiliated with the Dept. of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and the Kavli Institute of Cosmological Physics. An Indian national, he has been in Chicago since 2015, having moved to the US from the University of Cambridge with a masters degree in Astrophysics, and the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi with a bachelors degree in Engineering Physics.
Gourav’s research focuses on the astrophysics of member galaxies of high-redshift galaxy clusters, which he studies via tools like optical-infrared spectroscopy and strong gravitational lensing. Gourav is part of the South Pole Telescope (SPT) Clusters collaboration, and is also affiliated with the Dark Energy Survey (DES). Counting himself as an observer and an analyst, Gourav is a frequent user of the Magellan Telescopes and the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile for his research. His past work as an undergraduate and masters student includes an analysis of host galaxy properties in DES-discovered active galactic nuclei (AGN), understanding chemical enrichment in galaxy environments via simulations and observations, spectroscopic studies of Type Ib supernovae, and building stellar speckle interferometric apparatus in a laboratory that mimic adaptive optics systems on telescopes.
Outside astrophysics research, Gourav has also been a part of the Astrobites collaboration since 2015, both as a science communication writer-editor and an education researcher. Gourav also works on issues of social justice, having co-founded initiatives like the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Journal Club (DEIJC) at UChicago, a platform that helps early-career astrophysicists create an equitable and inclusive local community through peer education. He is an organizer and officer with Graduate Students United – UChicago’s graduate worker union – which has been fighting for labor rights for graduate members of the UChicago community. On a light day, you would find Gourav reading non-fiction books, listening to Punjabi music, or at a movie theatre checking out the latest superhero flick!

Introducing David Wilson

David Wilson (@astrodave2) is a postdoc at the University of Texas at Austin, having recently moved there after completing his PhD at the University of Warwick. His research focuses on observing M dwarf and white dwarf stars using Hubble and other space telescopes. He uses those observations to explore the effects of stellar activity on extrasolar planets and to study the remnants of planetary systems around dead stars. In particular, David is a member of the Mega-Muscles collaboration, which is using a large number of telescopes to produce an archive of pan-chromatic M dwarf spectra.

Along with his research, David is also interested in science communication and outreach. During his PhD he was a writer for the Astrobites collaboration and regularly visited local schools to give talks and present planetarium shows. When not working, David can usually be found reading sci-fi books or adding to his space-themed Lego collection.

Introducing Emily Hunt

Emily Hunt (@emilydoesastro) is a final year undergraduate at the University of Bath in the UK. She is approaching the end of a summer internship, with the aim of improving the knowledge of dust extinction to variable stars in the Magellanic clouds by using parallax data from the Gaia satellite. The past couple of months have been an adventure in learning about Bayesian statistics, variable stars, and doing large-scale data analysis in Python. Emily is also passionate about equality and diversity in science, being involved in running a Network of Women in Physics at her university and being an advocate for LGBT+ people in STEM.

In her spare time, Emily does live sound engineering and plays guitar. She grew up in Coventry in the middle of the UK, and developed her passion for space after a family move nearer to the countryside with a darker night sky. She’s also a science fiction buff, and has an arduino called Lovelace.