Introducing Michele Bannister

Dr Michele Bannister is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Victoria, in British Columbia. She specializes in searching for icy worlds in the outer Solar System, and has been involved in the discovery of more than five hundred new trans-Neptunian objects. Michele works with the Outer Solar System Origins Survey, a collaboration of nearly fifty researchers around the world, who are trying to understand the formation and evolution of the Solar System using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Maunakea.

Originally from Waitara in New Zealand, Michele studied astronomy and geology for her B.Sc (Hons) as an Aurora Scholar at the University of Canterbury, including nine weeks of geophysics field work in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. Her PhD at Mt Stromlo Observatory of the Australian National University and at Caltech used the data from a small telescope at Siding Spring to search for bright icy worlds in the southern sky. After three years on hummingbird-rich and snow-free Vancouver Island, she’ll be moving to Belfast from August to become a Research Fellow at Queens’ University. You can find her tweeting about icy worlds and the non-sidereal life at @astrokiwi.


Reintroducing Edward Gomez

Since childhood I have been fascinated by astronomy. When I realised that I could use maths and computers to do fun things with astronomy, I knew I was hooked for life. I never grew out of it and now I am lucky enough to be a professional astrophysicist. As part of my role with Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT) I try to find novel ways to engage the public in science by using astronomy. This has taken the form of creating citizen science projects like Agent Exoplanet, interactive educational web apps like Star in a Box, and online community events like Show Me Stars.

The global education hub for LCOGT is based in Cardiff University where I am an honourary lecturer/adjunct faculty in the School of Physics and Astronomy. One of the enjoyably parts of this position is supervising BSc. and MPhys. level undergraduate projects. This year I had 4 project students investigating extrasolar planets. I am very proud that 2 of my former project students have gone on to do PhDs.

In addition, I am part of the Schools Engagement Team and assist with the outreach of the University. We have recently been awarded funding by the Welsh Government’s National Science Academy to run the programme Universe in the Classroom, inspiring children and teachers with Universe in a Box kits and stellar role models, across Wales. Universe in the Classrom is run in partnership with the international project Universe Awareness.

I co-chair the IAU task force for children and schools, under the guidance of the Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD). Our aim is to help people in astronomically developing countries to engage with and inspire children and teachers.

I regularly appear on the BBC radio wales programmes, Science Cafe and Eleri Sion Show. I have served as guest judge for the national Debating Matters competition. Engaging with the public is fun and I have been lucky enough to do it in several pubs with Ignite Cardiff and Bright Club.

Being a life long fan of Doctor Who, I’ve been delighted to have give Science of Doctor Who talks in St Louis Science Center, and Cardiff Museum.

Currently I am working at how we make the LCOGT global telescope network exciting and accessible to a diverse audience, and what tools we need to make the most of its potential. What particularly concerns me is using the power of astronomy to inspire people who would not normally be interested in science.

I love music and play the lute. Part of me thinks that makes me closer to a renaissance astronomer, like Galileo.

You can find my blog over at Dark Matter Sheep, where I talk about science, music, films, coding, and silly things.

Introducing Bhairavi Shankar

I am a planetary scientist living in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Canada. My research focus throughout graduate school has been on characterizing impact craters on several planetary bodies (Earth, Moon, Venus). This includes characterizing the crater morphology and determining the compositional information of surfaces using data fusion techniques on remote sensing datasets. But my main passion has also been in being a spatial analyst – applying tools, techniques, and troubleshooting issues when it comes to properly projecting data of planetary surfaces for research. A close second passion has been to share all the cool awesome space science news and research with the general public.
I did my undergraduate degree in Planetary science at the University of Toronto, my Master’s in Geology at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and PhD in Geology (Planetary Science) at Western University. I recently wrapped up a postdoc position in nearby London, ON (Western University) and the mixed experience (long long hours, burnout, occasional feeling of work isolation, lack of work/life balance) in that role has led me to explore options beyond pure academia. While completing much overdue publications and managing family commitments, I’m looking forward to rediscovering how to continue working as a Planetary Scientist.

Introducing Jessie Christiansen

Jessie is a staff scientist at the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at Caltech. She searches for, studies, and catalogues extrasolar planets – planets orbiting other stars. Her main research focuses on using the thousands of exoplanets found by the NASA Kepler mission to determine how common planets similar to the Earth might be throughout the Galaxy.

Leading up to this role, she did her undergraduate studies at Griffith University and the Australian National University, before completing a PhD at the University of New South Wales. She held a postdoctoral research position at Harvard University for several years, working on the NASA EPOXI mission, before moving out to sunny California to start a staff scientist position at NASA Ames working directly on the Kepler mission.

She is married to another astronomer, and they have 14-month-old twins – their daughter is an evil genius who will take over the world, and their son is a sweet goofball who her daughter is certainly setting up to be her patsy. Jessie likes singing, reading, scifi, broadway musicals (she’s had Hamilton on repeat for the last month), and binge-watching media content.