Introducing Graeme Poole

Graeme Poole is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bristol working on early solar system cosmochemistry and the formation of planetary bodies. Via the dark art of mass spectrometry, he is measuring isotopes in meteorites to gauge the origin of volatiles delivered to Earth. Meteorites from primitive bodies are the equivalent of a time machine; they hold a record of the conditions during solar system formation over 4.5 billion years ago and have remained (mostly) unchanged since.

Prior to this, Graeme studied for a PhD at Imperial College London, researching nucleosynthetic isotope anomalies and the conditions in the solar nebula at the time of terrestrial planet formation. During his undergraduate degree in Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford, Graeme also had the privilege to work on lunar samples brought back by the Apollo missions. So if it’s a rock and it’s from space, Graeme is all over it!

Graeme is currently co-chair of the United Kingdom Planetary Forum (@UKPlanetary), a body that promotes planetary research within the UK, and is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (@RoyalAstroSoc). Outside of the lab, Graeme can be found almost exclusively on the cricket pitch.

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Introducing James Matthews

James Matthews is postdoctoral researcher at University of Oxford where he tries to understand where the highest energy cosmic rays come from. Cosmic rays are particles with energies up to 100 billion billion electron volts (that’s a lot of energy!) that strike our atmosphere and produce showers of secondary particles, which we can detect at places like the Pierre Auger observatory. Although they were discovered at the start of the 20th century, we still don’t really know where the highest energy cosmic rays come from.
James’ work is mostly theoretical; I do hydrodynamics simulations of outflows from active galactic nuclei (AGN) to see if they produce the observed cosmic rays. AGN are supermassive black holes that shine brightly due to the gas that is falling onto them, meaning they are interesting for all sorts of reasons — not just for cosmic ray astrophysicists! So, he also works on trying to generally understand the outflows and accretion discs that form part of their sometimes confusing behaviour. James’ PhD thesis, completed at the University of Southampton, focused on this topic. Outside of academia James plays guitar and keyboards in a band called Waking Aida and enjoy football, squash and good pubs!

Introducing Katie Breivik

Katie Breivik is a finishing phd student at Northwestern University and is also a member of the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA). Her thesis research focuses on binary evolution and compact binary populations. In particular, she likes to think about what can be learned from combining the results of large-scale electromagnetic surveys like Gaia and future gravitational wave catalogs from LISA. To do this, she generates synthetic Milky Way compact binary populations using several different binary evolution models which can be compared to current and future observed populations.
When she is not running binary population synthesis codes, she likes to explore the Chicago brewery scene or watch RuPaul’s Drag Race with her two cats, Margot and Richie.

Reintroducing Meg Schwamb

Meg Schwamb is currently an assistant scientist at Gemini Observatory. She also serves as the NIRI (Near-InfraRed Imager) instrument scientist at Gemini North in Hilo, Hawai’i.  She is a planetary scientist and astronomer focusing on understanding how planets and their building blocks form and evolve.

Meg uses large surveys to probe the small body reservoirs in the Solar System. She is currently serving as co-chair of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Solar System Science Collaboration. Meg also mines large datasets via citizen science, enlisting hundreds of thousands of people worldwide in the research effort. She is currently involved in the  Planet Four , Planet Four: Terrains, Planet Four: Ridges and Comet Hunters citizen science projects to respectively map seasonal fans on the south pole of Mars, characterize surface features on the Martian South Pole, map polygonal ridges in the Martian mid latitudes, and search for cometary activity in the asteroid belt.

You can find Meg on twitter at @megschwamb

Introducing Esther Hanko

Esther Hanko (@EstherHanko) is the local outreach coordinator of the Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy of the UvA in Amsterdam, NL. She’s had an unconventional career path. After earning a master’s degree in Linguistics, she decided that an academic career was not for her and started working as a Linux system engineer in 2006. She worked for big companies like KLM (the Royal Dutch Airlines) but in 2015, she decided it was time for a change and started working for the API.

At the API, she organizes visits to the observatory. She also maintains much of the API website contents and the institute’s social media (@uva_api). One of her main goals is developing new audiences and finding ways to reach them. Another part of her job is maintenance of the observatory telescopes, working closely with a master student, in order to keep the students’ observing projects running smoothly.

She has been an amateur astronomer since 2012, after seeing an image of Io casting its shadow on Jupiter and realizing that she was now a grown up and could actually just buy herself a telescope. She also dabbles in no-telescope astrophotography, and shares her work online. She loves to write about her astronomy adventures and blogs about it in Dutch on her website oetie.nl. In her spare time, she is one of the moderators on the Dutch astronomy forum astroforum.nl, where one of her tasks is to help pick and write about the “Object of the Month”, a shared observing challenge.

She is passionate about creating awareness about light pollution, promoting the art of astronomical sketching, and teaching anyone who will listen to her that the skies are closer than you think.

Introducing John Noonan

John Noonan (@J_Noons) is a graduate student at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson, Arizona. For the last three and a half years he has worked on the European Space Agency Rosetta mission during its rendezvous and escort of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. More specifically, John works on the spacecraft’s ultraviolet spectrograph, Alice. Comets are typically thought of as some of the least altered objects from the beginning of the solar system, and their study helps bring planetary scientists as close as possible to this mysterious time. The ultraviolet realm of the electromagnetic spectrum is particularly useful for studying atomic and small molecular abundances, which is ideal for figuring out the formation location and thermal history of a comet.

John lived the vast majority of his life in the mountains of Colorado before moving to Boulder, Colorado to study Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Quickly after attending his first microbiology class he changed his major to astrophysics and graduated in 2016 summa cum laude. After graduation John continued to work on the Rosetta mission as well as a flight controller for NASA’s CYGNSS mission at the Southwest Research Institute. John moved to Tucson in August 2017 to begin his Ph.D. at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. You can find John riding his bike the vast majority of the time, which he finds to be the best stress therapy around.

Introducing James Davenport

James Davenport (@jradavenport) is a NSF Astronomy & Astrophysics postdoctoral fellow at Western Washington University, and a research fellow at the University of Washington’s new DIRAC Institute. His research is focused on stars, magnetic activity, flares, and starspots. He primarily uses data from the NASA Kepler and K2 missions, and is currently working on projects involving upcoming data releases from Gaia and ZTF.
For the past 5 years, Davenport has run a demographics survey of the annual AAS meetings that studies the gender dynamics of conference talks and Q/A periods. This work has found that men ask nearly twice as many talks as women in conference settings. However, the study is currently looking at ways to help level the playing field for all conference attendees. See this link for more details. (http://jradavenport.github.io/gender_study/)
Davenport currently maintains a monthly newsletter highlighting the latest in academic SETI research (http://seti.news), and is the author of the data, science, and visualization blog If We Assume (http://www.ifweassume.com). He earned his PhD from the University of Washington in 2015.