Introducing Haley Wahl

I’m Haley Wahl (@hwahl16) and I’m a PhD student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at West Virginia University. I’m originally from New England and I did my undergraduate at the University of Vermont. My main research interest is pulsars. I love pulsars because each of them is different and they exhibit weird phenomena like nulling (where they just randomly stop pulsing for a period of time and we have no idea why!). They’re a ton of fun to study and we can learn about neutron stars, equations of state, the interstellar medium, gravitational waves, plasma physics, and so much more from them.

During my time at UVM, I worked with Dr. Joanna Rankin studying two pulsars that exhibit an emission phenomenon called “swooshing” and also started a project on pulsar emission geometry at low frequencies. I’m currently working with Dr. Maura McLaughlin with the NANOGrav collaboration (the Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves, a collaboration that is working to detect gravitational waves using pulsar timing) on studying the polarization and rotation measures of a set of 40 pulsars.

In addition to doing research, I’ve recently fallen in love with science outreach! I work at WVU’s planetarium putting on shows for the public and love getting people excited about space. I frequently talk to classes through the Skype a Scientist program and love sharing my knowledge about space with elementary and middle school classes and telling them what it’s like to be a scientist. I recently started writing for AstroBites and once a month, I get to take a really cool paper that may be a little bit technical and bring it down to a level that everyone can understand. I’ve always loved writing so I’m so happy to have found AstroBites.

When I’m not at my computer exploring the mysteries of pulsars, you can find me in the kitchen trying my hand at yet another pastry (I’ve been inspired lately by The Great British Baking Show), in my running shoes exploring another part of Morgantown, or with a book in my hand. I’m also part of the Physics and Astronomy Graduate Student Organization (PAGSO) at WVU and am currently the secretary of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, a group that is dedicated to keeping graduate students involved in what’s going on at WVU.

Introducing Jennifer Grier

Hello Astrofolks! – I’m Dr. Jennifer Grier, a Senior Scientist and Education/Communications Specialist at the Planetary Science Institute (HQ Tucson, AZ).  My formal education is in the sciences, with a B.S. in Astronomy and a Ph.D. in Planetary Sciences, but I also have 25 years of experience working in science education and outreach.  Some science stuff I’ve done: determined the relative ages of lunar rayed craters through optical maturity of ejecta, dated channels on Mars with crater statistics, found the ages of thermal impact events on asteroids by isotopic examination of meteorites, and estimated the time of formation of the Gardnos impact structure on Earth.  Some of my specific education work has included:  partnering with school systems to develop astronomy curricula, working with science museums to verify exhibit content, professional development workshops for teachers and scientists in education and outreach, and also teaching online/university/community college classes.  My current interests include inclusion and equity in STEM careers, the ethics of space exploration, and mental health/disability issues in the sciences.  If not doing those things then I’m doing creative writing, such as poetry, essays, fiction, articles and more – my works in progress include a collection of creepy childhood horror poems and a space opera novel trilogy.  And that book of essays about the alchemy of science and writing …
You can find my musings and other info in various places like:

Introducing Bryan Méndez

Bryan Méndez is an astronomer & education specialist at UC Berkeley’s Space Science Laboratory. Dr. Méndez works to educate and inspire others about the wonder and beauty of the Universe. He develops programs for the public through the web and museums; develops educational resources for students, teachers, and the public; conducts professional development for science educators; and teaches courses in astronomy and physics at UC Berkeley and local community colleges.

 The beautiful night sky in his hometown of Traverse City, Michigan inspired Bryan to study astronomy. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1997 with degrees in Astronomy, Physics, and Music. He then continued his studies at the University of California at Berkeley, graduating in 2002 with a Ph.D. in Astrophysics. Dr. Méndez researched the distribution of galaxies in the nearby Universe and its implications for the overall structure of the Cosmos.

He is husband to his best friend and love of his life, father of the most precious twin boys in all the cosmos, a sci-fi/fantasy geek with particular obsessions for Star Wars and Star Trek, a saxophonist, an aspiring filmmaker, and a Californian transplanted from Michigan. Bryan is bicultural, of Mexican and European backgrounds, and strives to foster diverse perspectives in his work.

Introducing Harriet Brettle

Harriet Brettle is a Planetary Sciences graduate student at the California Institute of Technology. She is the Strategic Partnerships Team coordinator of the Space Generation Advisory Council, supporting its mission to represent students and young professionals to the United Nations, space agencies, industry, and academia. Harriet has a keen interest in public engagement with space science, interactions between different fields relevant to space exploration, and the future of new space economy. 

Introducing Emily Lakdawalla

Emily Lakdawalla is an internationally admired science communicator and educator, passionate about advancing public understanding of space and sharing the wonder of scientific discovery.

Emily holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in geology from Amherst College and a Master of Science degree in planetary geology from Brown University. She came to The Planetary Society in 2001. She has been writing and editing the Planetary Society Blog since 2005, reporting on space news, explaining planetary science, and sharing beautiful space photos. Emily has been an active supporter of the international community of space image processing enthusiasts as Administrator of the forum UnmannedSpaceflight.com since 2005. She is also a contributing editor to Sky & Telescope magazine.

Her first book, titled The Design and Engineering of Curiosity: How the Mars Rover Performs Its Job, is due out from Springer-Praxis in March, 2018. The book explains the development, design, and function of Curiosity with the same level of technical detail that she delivers in the Planetary Society Blog. A second book, Curiosity and Its Science Mission: A Mars Rover Goes to Work will follow in 2019.

She was awarded the 2011 Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Sciences Journalism Award from the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society for her blog entry about the Phoebe ring of Saturn. Asteroid 274860 was formally named “Emilylakdawalla” by the International Astronomical Union on July 12, 2014. She received an honorary doctorate from The Open University in 2017 in recognition of her contributions in communicating space science to the public.

Emily can be reached at blog@planetary.org or @elakdawalla on Twitter.

Introducing Esther Hanko

Esther Hanko (@EstherHanko) is the local outreach coordinator of the Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy of the UvA in Amsterdam, NL. She’s had an unconventional career path. After earning a master’s degree in Linguistics, she decided that an academic career was not for her and started working as a Linux system engineer in 2006. She worked for big companies like KLM (the Royal Dutch Airlines) but in 2015, she decided it was time for a change and started working for the API.

At the API, she organizes visits to the observatory. She also maintains much of the API website contents and the institute’s social media (@uva_api). One of her main goals is developing new audiences and finding ways to reach them. Another part of her job is maintenance of the observatory telescopes, working closely with a master student, in order to keep the students’ observing projects running smoothly.

She has been an amateur astronomer since 2012, after seeing an image of Io casting its shadow on Jupiter and realizing that she was now a grown up and could actually just buy herself a telescope. She also dabbles in no-telescope astrophotography, and shares her work online. She loves to write about her astronomy adventures and blogs about it in Dutch on her website oetie.nl. In her spare time, she is one of the moderators on the Dutch astronomy forum astroforum.nl, where one of her tasks is to help pick and write about the “Object of the Month”, a shared observing challenge.

She is passionate about creating awareness about light pollution, promoting the art of astronomical sketching, and teaching anyone who will listen to her that the skies are closer than you think.

Introducing Will Armentrout

Will Armentrout (@WillArmentrout) is a doctoral student at West Virginia University in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. A graduate of Westminster College (@WestminsterPA), his roots are in Ford City, Pennsylvania, a glass town northeast of Pittsburgh. He’s in his last year of graduate school at WVU, studying high-mass star formation and Galactic HII regions with Prof. Loren Anderson (@Loren__Anderson). HII regions are areas of ionized gas surrounding young, high-mass stars and can help us to understand the structure, formation, and chemistry of galaxies. Will’s current project involves observing HII regions in the most distant molecular spiral arm within the Milky Way, known as the Outer Scutum-Centaurus spiral arm.

Will is spending this week at the Green Bank Telescope (@IamGBT), smack in the center of the National Radio Quiet Zone, which will certainly make tweeting a bit difficult! Primarily a radio astronomer, he is the principal investigator on projects with the GBT and the Very Large Array (@TheNRAO). He has recently moved into optical astronomy, though, with a project at the Gemini North Observatory (@GeminiObs).

Outside of research, he co-founded the West Virginia University Science Policy Organization (@WVUScience) in 2014. The group aims to open communication channels between university scientists and policy makers on the state and federal level and to also convey the importance (and excitement!) of basic and applied scientific research to the public. He also serves as president of the WVU Graduate and Professional Student Senate (@WVUGPSS), a group dedicated to keeping graduate students part of the larger campus conversation at WVU.