Introducing James Guillochon

James Guillochon is currently a postdoc at the Institute for Theory and Computation in the Harvard astronomy department. He studies the  tidal disruptions of stars by supermassive black holes and supernovae, runs hydrodynamical simulations to figure out their physics, and compares model predictions to observed data. He maintains Vox Charta and the Open Astronomy Catalogs (AKA Astrocats)

Introducing Jennifer Piatek

Jennifer Piatek is an associate professor at Central Connecticut State University, where she teaches introductory courses in geology, astrobiology, and planetary astronomy as well as the occasional upper level course in planetary geology or remote sensing. Her research projects involve analysis of thermal infrared images of Mars with the goal of a better understanding the geologic processes that have affected the surface, as well as modeling of lab measurements of light scattering from analog materials. She also is active in projects that use advances in technology to help improve geoscience education through the use of high resolution panoramic images in the classroom and developing inclusive field experiences for students of differing abilities (with the benefit that both of these are great reasons to visit interesting geology, whether just down the road or a long plane flight away).
She was previously a postdoc at the University of Tennessee, and earned a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in 2003, an M.S. from Arizona State University, and a B.S. in Physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. When off campus (indeed there is such a place), she spends too much time consuming popular science fiction and fantasy, and not enough time outdoors.

Introducing Ryan Anderson

Dr. Ryan B. Anderson (@Ryan_B_Anderson) is a planetary scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, AZ, where he works on a mix of research and software development.  He got his PhD in Planetary Science from Cornell University. His thesis research played a role in the selection of Gale Crater as the landing site for the Curiosity Mars rover, and his work on analyzing Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) data with neural networks and other methods led to a role on the ChemCam science team. Ryan is also a member of the science team for the SuperCam instrument on the upcoming Mars 2020 rover and has a few smaller grants of his own, including two Mars geomorphology projects, and one to develop an open-source Python tool for analyzing LIBS (and other) spectra. He is also involved in a NASA-funded project to develop planetary science-themed after school activities for middle school students.

Ryan is passionate about science communication and education. He founded the Martian Chronicles blog, and enjoys giving public talks and generally sharing the excitement of science and planetary exploration.

Outside of work, Ryan enjoys spending time with his wife, baby, and two dogs. He also writes at his personal blog about non-science topics, and sometimes dabbles in fiction writing. He spends too much time on social media, and not enough on fun things like hiking and skiing.

Reintroducing Ángel R. López-Sánchez

Dr. Ángel R. López-Sánchez is an astronomer and science communicator at the Australian Astronomical Observatory and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the Macquarie University. He studies how gas is converted into stars in nearby galaxies and how this affects galaxy evolution. He also provides support for visiting astronomers to the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT, Siding Spring Observatory, NSW). Dr. López-Sánchez is passionate science communicator who continuously gives talks and public lectures, writes popular science articles and organizes stargazing activities. He is very active in social media, his Twitter feed is @El_Lobo_Rayado.

Introducing Alexis Lavail

Alexis Lavail (@astro_alexis) is a third-year PhD student at Uppsala University, Sweden. His scientific research is focused on the study of magnetic fields of cool stars, particularly pre-main-sequence stars and M dwarfs, using high-resolution near-IR spectroscopy and/or optical spectropolarimetry. Alexis also participates in the CRIRES+ project, upgrading the Very Large Telescope’s CRIRES (near-infrared high-resolution) spectrograph. Together with colleagues in Uppsala, they designed the spectropolarimetry unit that they are currently manufacturing and assembling. Expect tweets about stellar magnetic fields and photos of shiny astronomical instrument parts.

Non-workwise, Alexis might be found taking long walks, brewing beer, baking bread, and feeling sad that there are still people who use Comic Sans.

Introducing Matthew R. Francis

Matthew R. Francis [] is a science journalist, public speaker, educator, and wearer of jaunty hats. He received a PhD from Rutgers University in 2006, where he studied galaxy cluster cosmology, dark energy, and the mathematical structure of gravitational theories. After finishing his doctorate, he taught college and directed a small planetarium in Tennessee.
Since 2011, Matthew has been a full-time science writer, covering astronomy, physics, planetary science, and social issues within science. His articles have been published in Physics World, Symmetry, Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine, Mosaic, Slate, NOVA, and many others. [Link to portfolio: ] He uses his background in research and teaching to help in his writing. As someone who made the transition from academic science to journalism, he mentors others who are interested in making a similar transition.
Beyond science, Matthew is finishing his first novel (well, since his teenage writings, which are best forgotten). He enjoys playing music, reading comics, talking about his cats, and taking Star Wars far too seriously. He is on Twitter @DrMRFrancis more than he should be.

Introducing Mehmet Alpaslan

Mehmet Alpaslan (@mehmsy) is a postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. He is an extragalactic astronomer that studies the role of environment on the evolution of galaxies using data from from the Galaxy And Mass Assembly (GAMA) survey. Specifically, Mehmet models the large-scale distribution of galaxies, often referred to as the Cosmic Web, and tries to understand how (or, indeed, if) galaxies in filaments differ to those in voids. He is also interested in astrostatistics and will talk about the marvels of the programming language R ad nauseam.


Mehmet received his PhD from the University of St Andrews, having also studied at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research at the University of Western Australia for two years during his doctoral training. Originally Turkish, he has lived in seven countries prior to his arrival in the US. He will most likely post photos of his goofy looking Ibizan hounds.