Introducing Harriet Brettle

Harriet Brettle is a Planetary Sciences graduate student at the California Institute of Technology. She is the Strategic Partnerships Team coordinator of the Space Generation Advisory Council, supporting its mission to represent students and young professionals to the United Nations, space agencies, industry, and academia. Harriet has a keen interest in public engagement with space science, interactions between different fields relevant to space exploration, and the future of new space economy. 


(Re)Introducing Michele Bannister

Dr Michele Bannister (@astrokiwi) is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Director’s Outreach Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast, United Kingdom. An expert in the discovery and characterization of minor planets in the Solar System, she has been involved in the discovery of more than eight hundred new minor planets that orbit beyond Neptune. Originally from New Zealand, Bannister has worked at institutes in Australia, the US, and Canada. She was honoured in 2017 by the International Astronomical Union with asteroid (10463) Bannister.

Introducing Emily Lakdawalla

Emily Lakdawalla is an internationally admired science communicator and educator, passionate about advancing public understanding of space and sharing the wonder of scientific discovery.

Emily holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in geology from Amherst College and a Master of Science degree in planetary geology from Brown University. She came to The Planetary Society in 2001. She has been writing and editing the Planetary Society Blog since 2005, reporting on space news, explaining planetary science, and sharing beautiful space photos. Emily has been an active supporter of the international community of space image processing enthusiasts as Administrator of the forum since 2005. She is also a contributing editor to Sky & Telescope magazine.

Her first book, titled The Design and Engineering of Curiosity: How the Mars Rover Performs Its Job, is due out from Springer-Praxis in March, 2018. The book explains the development, design, and function of Curiosity with the same level of technical detail that she delivers in the Planetary Society Blog. A second book, Curiosity and Its Science Mission: A Mars Rover Goes to Work will follow in 2019.

She was awarded the 2011 Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Sciences Journalism Award from the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society for her blog entry about the Phoebe ring of Saturn. Asteroid 274860 was formally named “Emilylakdawalla” by the International Astronomical Union on July 12, 2014. She received an honorary doctorate from The Open University in 2017 in recognition of her contributions in communicating space science to the public.

Emily can be reached at or @elakdawalla on Twitter.

Introducing: Julie Rathbun

Julie Rathbun is a planetary scientist who studies moons of the outer solar system.  Her favorite place is Io and her favorite feature is the volcano Loki.  Her research on Loki has included ground-based and spacecraft observations and she’s also studied spatial and temporal variations in Ionian volcanoes.  When not studying Io, she’s usually studying Europa and is a member of the E-THEMIS team on Europa Clipper. She is currently a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute and a Professor of Physics at the University of Redlands.  In addition to her research, Julie is heavily involved in diversity work and has presented extensively on women on spacecraft science teams.  She is also currently chair of the Division of Planetary Sciences Professional Culture and Climate Subcommittee (PCCS).  You can normally find her tweeting from @LokiVolcano.

Introducing René Ortega-Minakata

René A. Ortega-Minakata is a Mexican astronomer. He got a bachelor in physics at the University of Guadalajara (Mexico) in 2009 and later a Master’s and PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Guanajuato (also Mexico) in 2015. He later went to Valongo Observatory in Rio de Janeiro as a postdoc for one year and afterwards joined the Institute of Astronomy at UNAM in Mexico City, where he currently works also as a postdoc.
He is interested in the evolution of galaxies, particularly the relationship between their local (spatially-resolved) and global properties, feedback processes from AGN and star formation, and the relation of galaxies with their environment. He currently works with CALIFA, SDSS-MaNGA and MUSE data.
He is also interested in inclusiveness and equality in astronomy and academia in general.

Introducing Emily Rice

Dr. Emily Rice is an astronomer, professor, and creative science communicator in New York City. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Science & Physics at the College of Staten Island of the City University of New York (CUNY), faculty in the physics Ph.D. program at the CUNY Graduate Center, and resident research associate in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). She studies low mass stars, brown dwarfs (sometimes called “failed” stars), and directly-imaged exoplanets by analyzing their spectra and modeling their atmospheres. Her research group, Brown Dwarfs in New York City (BDNYC) has received funding from NASA and the NSF, and she is a co-author on 30 refereed publications. In 2015 Dr. Rice was an inaugural recipient of the Henry Wasser Award for Outstanding Scholarship from the CUNY Academy for the Humanities and Sciences. She earned her Ph.D. at UCLA in Astronomy & Astrophysics and undergraduate degrees from the University of Pittsburgh in Physics & Astronomy and German. In addition to her research, she co-authored of a suite of labs for introductory college-level astronomy courses called Astronomy Labs: A Concept Oriented Approach, available through Pearson. She frequently gives public presentations, including at the Hayden Planetarium at AMNH, and makes media appearances, produces science parody videos, organizes and hosts Astronomy on Tap events at bars in NYC, and shares astronomy-inspired fashion on the STARtorialist blog.

Introducing Jillian Scudder

Jillian Scudder (@Jillian_Scudder) is an extragalactic astronomer and assistant professor at Oberlin College in Ohio. Her research focuses on interactions between galaxies, trying to understand both what controls the strength of a galaxy’s response to an interaction, and how those responses change over cosmic time.

Jillian’s PhD work was completed at the University of Victoria in BC, Canada, studying the both star formation and the metal content of nearby pair galaxies in the local Universe. She then moved to a postdoc at the University of Sussex, in the UK, where she shifted her research focus to the more distant universe, using the far infrared as a tracer of the most highly star forming systems (which potentially could trace interactions) to try and understand much younger galaxies. She began her position at Oberlin College in July.  Her work is highly statistical in nature, using carefully selected, large samples of galaxies to determine differences between populations, and makes frequent use of comparisons to simulations.

Jillian also has written the public outreach blog Astroquizzical (@astroquizzical) for the past five years, and has a book based on the blog (Astroquizzical: a curious journey through our cosmic family tree) coming out March 8th in the UK & digitally, and in June in the US. Outside of work and writing, Jillian spends time hanging out with her dog, playing video games, and enjoying life in a small town.