Introducing Daniel Majaess

Daniel Majaess’ primary research interest pertains to improving the reliability of the cosmic distance scale. Establishing a reliable distance scale is crucial for determining the expansion rate of the Universe, the age of the Universe, and facilitating efforts to delineate the structure of our Milky Way galaxy. Dan presently divides his time between research as a member of ESO’s VVV survey, and instructing astronomy and physics at Saint Mary’s University and Mount Saint Vincent University. He likewise enjoys contributing articles to Universe Today news site, which was started by fellow Canadian Fraser Cain. Regarding the structure of our Milky Way galaxy, Dan remarks that unfortunately our presence within the plane of the Galaxy hampers efforts to map its structure. Indeed, there is currently no consensus on the number or nature of the Galaxy’s spiral arms and its central structure. Dan Majaess is a Canadian astronomer based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Introducing Andreea Font

Andreea Font is a Senior Lecturer at the Astrophysics Research Institute (ARI), Liverpool John Moores University. Her research interests are on the formation and evolution of galaxies, in particular that of the Milky Way, Andromeda and of other galaxies in the Local Group.  She uses super-computer simulations to model the formation of stellar haloes and tidal streams of Milky Way-like systems and to make predictions for these Galactic surveys, such as Gaia and WEAVE. She is also interested in how stellar discs form and survive in the framework of hierarchical cosmology, what clues can be found in the chemical abundance of present-day stars about the formation history of their host galaxies and how environment affects the properties of galaxies.
Prior to her tenured position in the UK, she held post-doctoral positions in US at Wesleyan University and in UK at Institute for Computational Cosmology at Durham University and at the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge.

Introducing James Sprinks

James Sprinks is a Research Associate in Planetary Science / Human Factors at the University of Nottingham’s Geospatial Institute. His current research involves the FP7 iMars project (, the broad aims of which are to develop tools and 3D models of the Martian surface through the co-registration of NASA and ESA mission data dating from the Viking missions of the 1970’s to the present day, for a much more comprehensive interpretation of the geomorphological and climatic processes that have taken and do take place. James’ involvement concentrates on the development of a Citizen Science Platform that allows the online public to analyse change on the surface of Mars. Through doing this the aim is to better understand how task design, interface design, data presentation techniques and communication tools can be best utilised to ensure the best possible user experience whilst ensuring the data produced is still scientifically robust.

Coming from a physics and astronomy background originally, James completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Southampton. His final year dissertation involved the study of binary star systems, specifically cataclysmic dwarf novae and the prediction models associated with their behaviour. After several years working in the education sector, he returned to academia to complete a masters degree in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) through a co-ordinated scheme involving the University of Leeds, University of Southampton and Penn State University, USA. His research involved the use of GIS techniques to map the distribution and geometric properties of barchan sand dunes on the surface of Mars.

Cornish born and bred, James enjoys the outdoors, sea and sand. A keen Cornish Pirates RFC supporter, he attempts to play rugby at a sub-standard level, and badminton only slightly better! When not studying or attempting to play sport, James can be found either half way up a mountain somewhere or underneath some cats, Spotty and Optimus (he didn’t name them). You can find out about James’ research on his website:

Introducing Kat Volk

Kat Volk is a planetary scientist working at the Department of Planetary Sciences/Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. Her research mostly involves observational and theoretical studies of trans-Neptunian objects (aka Kuiper belt objects) in the solar system, with a focus on how their orbits can help us understand the dynamical history of the giant planets in our solar system. She has also worked a little bit on the orbital dynamics of exoplanets as well as investigating the possible dynamics of the recently re-proposed “planet 9” in the outer solar system.

Kat received her undergraduate degree from Wittenberg University in Springfield, OH where she double majored in Physics and Russian Area Studies. Having always loved astronomy and related disciplines, she then moved to Tucson to work on a PhD in planetary sciences. After completing a PhD dissertation that focused on theoretical studies of small body populations in the outer solar system, Kat then moved to Vancouver, British Columbia for a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of British Columbia. Her research there included work with the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS), a survey for discovering new trans-Neptunian objects.  Kat then moved back to the University of Arizona to continue her research. You can find updates about Kat’s research on her website:

Introducing Christine Corbett Moran

January-November 2016 Christine is working on the South Pole Telescope on-site at the South Pole in Antarctica responsible for running observations of the cosmic microwave background radiation and optimizing data analysis focusing on high redshift galaxy cluster identification. To do her on-site work in Antarctica she is on a one year leave from my research at Caltech as an NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow (NSF AAPF) in the Theoretical AstroPhysics Including Relativity and Cosmology (TAPIR) group where she will return to finish my NSF AAPF 2017-2019. Her research focuses on computational cosmology, numerical relativity, high performance computing, and big data visualization. She’s primarily interested in the gravitational force, which she considers the most beautiful and mysterious of all of nature’s fundamental forces.

She studied Physics and Computer Science and Engineering (double major) and Mathematics and Philosophy (double minor) at MIT graduating in 2007 and obtained a Master’s degree in Astrophysics and Cosmology from UZH in 2009. In 2014 she completed her Ph.D. in Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Zurich under Professor George Lake and Professor Romain Teyssier. She’s done a variety of work across academic and industry boundaries in machine learning, software development, entrepreneurship, cryptography, computational physics and mobile app development with SpaceX, Open Whisper Systems, BBN Technologies, MIT CSAIL, MIT Media Lab, Lucent Technologies (Bell Labs Site), FAST Search and Transfer, UP Diliman, MIT, JHU, and MIT MEET.

Introducing Joshua Peek

Joshua Peek is an astronomer working at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD. Josh did his undergraduate work at Harvard, and did REUs at Princeton using the earliest data from SDSS. He spent a year working on the Submillimeter Array in Hawaii, where he developed his taste for radio astronomy. Josh did his PhD in astronomy at UC Berkeley, working with Carl Heiles and Mary Putman on the Galactic Arecibo L-Band Feed Array Neutral Hydrogen survey, which he continues to organize, and the study of high-velocity clouds. Josh then moved to Columbia, where he was awarded a Hubble Fellowship. Josh began work at STScI in 2014 in a permanent position as an assistant astronomer and archive scientist. Josh splits his time between astronomy research and support of archive and data-driven initiatives at STScI.

Josh’s astronomical interests focus on the diffuse phase of gas and plasma in the universe, in and surrounding galaxies. This includes radio observations of neutral hydrogen, absorption line measurements in the UV and optical, probing dust using background objects, and leveraging simulations of galaxy formation. He’s also interested in the image domain, and developing machine vision tools for extracting information from complex astronomical scenes.

In his capacity as archive scientist, Josh works for MAST and WFIRST, and supports many of STScI’s data-driven initiatives. He’s developed tools for connecting data and the literature and is designing new interfaces for MAST holdings. He’s helped develop STScI’s vision for big data, and is helping to set up the new Data Science Mission Office. He is also the lead of the STScI’s concept development for the WFIRST archive.

Introducing Jen Gupta

Dr Jen Gupta is a British astronomer who works at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation (@ICGPortsmouth) at the University of Portsmouth in the UK, where she is the SEPnet/Ogden Outreach Officer. In this role she runs the outreach and public engagement programme for the ICG, which typically engages with over 10,000 school children and members of the public each year. As the ICG’s Outreach Officer, it’s Jen’s job to organise school visits, run the Astrodome inflatable planetarium, train and manage student outreach helpers, work with researchers to develop new activities based on their work, organise public events, and evaluate the impact of the outreach and public engagement programme.

Jen has been active in communicating astronomy to the wider world for over seven years. In this time, she has lectured at the Royal Institution in London, given school talks in India, performed astronomy-themed stand-up comedy, and appeared on local and national TV and radio.

In her spare time, Jen can be found presenting planetarium shows at the Winchester Science Centre (@WinSciCentre), and helping to run the annual Winchester Science Festival (@WinSciFest). She recently started a new seldom serious podcast about astronomy called Seldom Sirius (@SeldomSirius). Any time leftover from this is spent with her dog Ralphie, who features heavily on her instagram feed (@jen__gupta).

Jen grew up in Winchester in the UK before moving to Manchester to study Physics with Astrophysics at the University of Manchester. She stayed there to do her PhD, studying radio-loud active galactic nuclei. Her love for communicating science started while doing her PhD, when she got involved in podcasting through The Jodcast (@jodcast).

Jen usually tweets at @jen_gupta.