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.

Introducing James Guillochon

James Guillochon is currently a postdoc at the Institute for Theory and Computation in the Harvard astronomy department. He studies the  tidal disruptions of stars by supermassive black holes and supernovae, runs hydrodynamical simulations to figure out their physics, and compares model predictions to observed data. He maintains Vox Charta and the Open Astronomy Catalogs (AKA Astrocats)

Introducing Jennifer Piatek

Jennifer Piatek is an associate professor at Central Connecticut State University, where she teaches introductory courses in geology, astrobiology, and planetary astronomy as well as the occasional upper level course in planetary geology or remote sensing. Her research projects involve analysis of thermal infrared images of Mars with the goal of a better understanding the geologic processes that have affected the surface, as well as modeling of lab measurements of light scattering from analog materials. She also is active in projects that use advances in technology to help improve geoscience education through the use of high resolution panoramic images in the classroom and developing inclusive field experiences for students of differing abilities (with the benefit that both of these are great reasons to visit interesting geology, whether just down the road or a long plane flight away).
She was previously a postdoc at the University of Tennessee, and earned a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in 2003, an M.S. from Arizona State University, and a B.S. in Physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. When off campus (indeed there is such a place), she spends too much time consuming popular science fiction and fantasy, and not enough time outdoors.

Introducing Ryan Anderson

Dr. Ryan B. Anderson (@Ryan_B_Anderson) is a planetary scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, AZ, where he works on a mix of research and software development.  He got his PhD in Planetary Science from Cornell University. His thesis research played a role in the selection of Gale Crater as the landing site for the Curiosity Mars rover, and his work on analyzing Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) data with neural networks and other methods led to a role on the ChemCam science team. Ryan is also a member of the science team for the SuperCam instrument on the upcoming Mars 2020 rover and has a few smaller grants of his own, including two Mars geomorphology projects, and one to develop an open-source Python tool for analyzing LIBS (and other) spectra. He is also involved in a NASA-funded project to develop planetary science-themed after school activities for middle school students.

Ryan is passionate about science communication and education. He founded the Martian Chronicles blog, and enjoys giving public talks and generally sharing the excitement of science and planetary exploration.

Outside of work, Ryan enjoys spending time with his wife, baby, and two dogs. He also writes at his personal blog about non-science topics, and sometimes dabbles in fiction writing. He spends too much time on social media, and not enough on fun things like hiking and skiing.