Introducing Ward Howard

Ward Howard is a PhD candidate in physics and astronomy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He researches the impact of stellar activity on the detection and habitability of exoplanets around nearby stars by measuring their optical flare rates and energies using data from the Evryscope, an ultra-wide survey of the entire visible sky every two minutes. The Evryscope has produced millions of high-cadence, multi-year stellar light-curves making feasible the long-term monitoring of nearby stars for superflares, flare rates, and starspot activity. He also works with Robo-AO, the first autonomous laser guide-star adaptive optics system, improving image quality for faint targets, particularly for follow-up of the faintest Kepler planetary candidates.

Ward grew up in High Point, NC and was initially inspired to study astronomy by the friendly and enthusiastic staff of the Jamestown, NC Cline Observatory. In 2015, Ward received a BS in physics and mathematics from Union University in Jackson, TN. As an REU student at Baylor’s Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics, and Engineering Research, he studied protoplanetary disk evolution. He enjoys good books (esp. science fiction and fantasy), coffee, physics outreach, and running/hiking.

Introducing Sara Mazrouei

Sara Mazrouei is a PhD candidate in planetary geology at the University of Toronto. Her thesis focuses on the cratering rate on the Moon. She is a science team member on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Diviner team. Sara received her MSc. from York University, where she studied rocks on asteroid Itokawa using data from the Japanese Hayabusa mission. In between her master’s and PhD studies, Sara worked at the European Space Agency, calibrating radio science data from the Venus Express.

Introducing Simon Porter

Simon Porter (@ascendingnode) is a Research Scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. He is a Co-Investigator on NASA’s New Horizons extended mission to encounter the cold classical Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) 2014 MU69. On the mission, he focuses on the small satellites of Pluto, determining the orbit of 2014 MU69, and the other KBOs that New Horizons is passing along the way. This summer, he is supporting the stellar occultations of MU69s, in South Africa, aboard SOFIA, and in Patagonia. In addition to mission work, he studies the orbital and tidal dynamics of other binary and triple KBOs and Centaurs.

Simon is originally from Burlington, Ontario, Canada, and grew up there, Oxfordshire, and Tennessee. He received a BS in Physics from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and was a undergrad Space Grant intern at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He received his PhD in Astrophysics from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, and was a Predoctoral Fellow at Lowell Observatory. Simon enjoys hiking, aerospace history, and identifying obscure aircraft/rockets/spacecraft.