Introducing Nick Attree

Nick Attree (@nick_attree) is a postdoctoral researcher at the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille (@LAM_Marseille) in France. He works on the MiARD (Multi Instrument Analysis of Rosetta Data) project, using modelling and data from ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft to explore the physical and mechanical properties of comet 67P. In particular, he uses OSIRIS camera images to analyse surface features, such as overhanging cliffs and fractures, to investigate the mechanical strength of the nucleus material, as well as navigation and position data, to measure the effects of outgassing on the comet’s orbit.
Nick completed his PhD at Queen Mary University of London, working with Cassini data on collisions in Saturn’s F ring. Before that, he obtained his MPhys degree in Physics with Planetary Science from Leicester University. Outside of research, he enjoys football (watching and playing), walking, reading, sci-fi, music and coffee and exploring his new, adopted home in the sunny South of France!

Introducing Maria Womack

Maria Womack (@StarzanPlanets) is Research Professor of physics at the University of South Florida in Tampa.  Her research involves multi-wavelength spectroscopy of comets and exoplanets. She is mainly interested in the chemical abundances and physical parameters that can be measured from volatiles with spectroscopic techniques. Lately, her cometary interests have focused on the activity of distant comets: those that are too far from the Sun for water ice to sublimate, but nonetheless have comae. Her work on exoplanetary science was mostly devoted to extracting signal from relatively faint ground-based spectra of hot Jupiters and super-Earths, which gave her a deep appreciation to the problems of Earth-atmosphere contamination.

Maria earned a B.S. in physics from Florida State University and a Ph.D. in physics from Arizona State University. She held a postdoctoral position in astronomy/planetary science at Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff) and her first faculty position was at Penn State Behrend (Erie). After three years, she left Erie to start a new faculty position at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, where she worked for 18 years. She carried out research with over 60 undergraduate students and managed student-run observatories at both universities. From 2011-2015 she worked as a ‘rotating’ astronomy program director to the National Science Foundation. She used her cometary and exoplanetary expertise at NSF to manage the stellar and planetary astronomy individual investigator grant programs; and to help create and establish the joint NASA-NSF EXPLORE program for exoplanetary science. She started her USF faculty position in 2015 and occasionally helps out NSF as a part-time “expert.”

Introducing Erin Ryan

Erin Ryan is a research scientist at University of Maryland working at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. She is one of the few telescope jockeys in the solar system exploration division at Goddard content with using telescopes both on the ground and in space. She currently studies comets and main belt-ish asteroids in an effort to understand the reservoirs of water in our solar system, and how water might have been transported into the inner solar system by migrations of small bodies over time.

Erin received her bachelor’s degree in astronomy from the University of Arizona in 2002, and then went to the Spitzer Science Center for three years before starting her PhD at the University of Minnesota where she graduated in 2011. Erin has been at Goddard since 2012, first as a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow and now as a soft money funded scientist through University of Maryland. Erin is often found on Twitter under the user name @erinleeryan where she sometimes makes fun of her astronomer spouse @markdavidlacy and their dog @Buster_of_dog.

Introducing Gal Sarid

Gal Sarid has recently joined the Florida Space Institute, at the University of Central Florida, as an associate scientist in planetary sciences (late 2014). Before moving to the Sunshine State he spent some time as a postdoctoral research associate in the Aloha State (Institute for Astronomy and NASA Astrobiology Institute at the University of Hawaii Manoa) and The People’s Republic of Cambridge (Earth & Planetary Sciences department at Harvard). He completed his PhD in Planetary Sciences (with a heavy background in physics and astronomy) at Tel Aviv University, Israel, overlooking the Mediterranean and working with Prof. Dina Prialnik.

He works on topics involving thermal and collisional evolution of planetary bodies (comets, asteroids and terrestrial planets) and early compositional evolution in the solar system. Most of his research focuses on relating thermo-physical, chemical and dynamical properties of various small body populations to their origin conditions and evolution pathways. The ultimate goal is to understand how planetary systems arrange themselves and promote habitable conditions.

With a general inquiring sense, Gal is willing and able to chat, collaborate and work on any interesting question in the realm of planetary physics. Now let’s discuss one of the more exciting times to be involved in space exploration!