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.


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 Ira Thorpe

Ira Thorpe (@IraThorpe) is an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Ira’s research focus is the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), a space-based observatory of gravitational waves that will extend our capabilities in this exciting new area of astrophysics. Sometimes called the “Hubble for Gravitational Waves”, LISA will observe merging massive black holes in the early universe, the capture of compact objects by massive black holes, millions of close compact binaries in the Milky Way, and perhaps signals that are entirely unexpected. LISA was recently approved as a new mission by the European Space Agency and is expected to have a significant NASA contribution. Ira serves as the lead US scientist for the NASA effort.

Born and raised in the mountains outside Santa Fe, New Mexico, Ira studied Mechanical Engineering and Physics at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA before entering the Physics graduate program at the University of Maryland. While at UMD, Ira began a graduate internship at Goddard working with the nascent LISA project. After moving to The University of Florida to complete his Ph.D., Ira returned to Goddard as a postdoc and later converted to a position in the federal civil service. Ira lives with his wife and three young boys in the suburbs of Washington, DC. Any time that is not covered by science or parenting will typically find Ira running, cycling, or hiking.

Reintroducing JJ Eldridge

JJ Eldridge (@astro_jje) is a theoretical astrophysics who studied for their PhD at the University of Cambridge in the UK. Then worked as a post-doc in Paris, Belfast and then returned to Cambridge. In 2011 they became a lecturer at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Their research interest involve stars (especially binaries!), galaxies, supernovae and study these across the Universe, from our own Sun to those at the edge of the observable Universe. They are co-PI on the Binary Population and Spectral Synthesis (BPASS) code that was created to facilitate their research.

JJ is a passionate and effective teacher all levels of undergraduate and postgraduate study. They also work to increase how equitable and inclusivity of academia.

They are also a hoopy frood who loves science fiction in all forms (books, TV series, movies and computer games) and they also always know where their towel is.


Introducing Larry Nittler


Larry Nittler is a staff scientist in the Dept. of Terrestrial Magnetism of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. He is a cosmochemist and planetary scientist whose research interests span stellar evolution, nucleosynthesis, interstellar and interplanetary dust, meteorites, and the formation and evolution of planets. He earned a BA in Physics from Cornell University in 1991 and a PhD in Physics from Washington University in St. Louis in 1996. He has been on the Carnegie staff since 2001, following a postdoc at the Carnegie and two years as a staff scientist at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center. His laboratory research focuses on isotopic and mineralogical properties of microscopic extraterrestrial materials including presolar grains in meteorites, interplanetary dust particles and spacecraft-returned samples, including solar wind and comet Wild 2 samples returned by the Genesis and Stardust missions, respectively. He also performs spacecraft-based remote-sensing geochemical research on planetary bodies. He led the analysis of X-ray fluorescence data for the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission, which orbited asteroid Eros in 2000-2001, and for the MESSENGER mission, which orbited Mercury from 2011-2015. He also served as Deputy Principle Investigator for MESSENGER. He is on the Science Team for the ESA-JAXA BepiColombo Mercury mission, to be launched in 2018, and is a Participating Scientist on JAXA’s Hayabusa2 asteroid sample return mission. He received the Nier prize of the Meteoritical Society in 2001 and became a Fellow of the same society in 2010. Asteroid 5992 Nittler is named in his honor. In addition to his scientific research, Larry is a jazz pianist and composer who performs frequently with his soul-jazz group Dr. Nittler’s Elastic Soultastic Planet. He lives in Washington DC with his wife, physicist Rhonda Stroud, and their daughter and two cats.