Introducing Mika McKinnon

Mika McKinnon is a freelance scientist mixing geophysics, disasters, and fiction into a mess of irrepressible curiosity. She’s a disaster researcher deeply in love with fluid dynamics and a bit too fascinated by landslides anywhere in this weird and wild solar system.

Mika spends her time lurking on set using science to make stranger fiction, zapping the Earth into revealing its subsurface secrets, and hunting down science to share with the public. Her work has appeared in Stargate, Dark Matter, and debatably Sharknado, and for publications including BBC, New Scientist, io9, Ars Technica, Astronomy Magazine, and others.

Mika is caretaker to an adorably grouchy hedgehog, and may be a bit too fascinated with ballgowns and crinolines. After this week, you can keep up with her latest adventures at @mikamckinnon

Introducing Cayman Unterborn

I am a 5th year Ph.D Candidate at The Ohio State University working in the School of Earth Science. My research looks at what it takes to build a habitable planet from a geologic perspective rather than the more traditional definition of the “habitable zone”. My work blends astronomy, geology and physics to understand which planetary compositions produce a planet able to sustain liquid water on its surface as well as control the carbon content of the atmosphere. On the Earth, this regulation of water/carbon is a consequence of plate tectonics, which in turn is driven by compositional differences in the mantle and an internal heat budget great enough to support interior convection. My previous work has looked at some of the extremes of this “geologic habitable zone”, such as so called “diamond planets” as well as measuring stellar Thorium abundance as a proxy for extrasolar heat budgets. The end goal of my research is to understand just how special the Earth may be with regards to it being habitable, or perhaps there are a range of compositions, perhaps even very un-Earth-like ones, that are able to produce dynamic planets capable of sustaining surface water and maybe even conditions to support life.

Introducing Amy Barr

This week, May 26-31, 2014, features Amy Barr. Amy  is a planetary scientist who is interested in how the moons of gas giant planets accrete, evolve during their first billion years, and form the strange geology on their surfaces.  She has worked extensively on the geophysics of Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, and Enceladus. She is an alumna, and member of the Board of Trustees of the Summer Science Program, a summer enrichment program in astronomy for gifted high school students.  She holds a BS in planetary science from Caltech and a PhD in Astrophysics & Planetary Science from the University of Colorado.  After five years as a research scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, CO, Amy joined the faculty of Brown University where she is an assistant professor.  In their off hours, Amy and her husband Vladan (a condensed matter physicist) enjoy skiing, doing more science, travel, and spending time on the New England coast.  The rest of the year, she tweets as @amytoast.