Introducing Duncan Forgan

Dr Duncan Forgan is a postdoc at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. He did his PhD and first postdoc at the nearby University of Edinburgh, where his focus was simulations of star and planet formation at very early epochs.

During his PhD he explored numerical approaches to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), which often makes headlines. He does his best to parlay this attention into public outreach, engaging with wide audiences from school kids to gamers to prisoners.

He is a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Young Academy of Scotland, a diverse grouping of academics, civil servants and third sector workers gathered to answer the challenges facing Scotland in the 21st Century, and to be a voice for the young.

Duncan will be tweeting from California this week, as he visits the Berkeley SETI Research Center. He’ll still give a flavour of academic life in beautiful St Andrews, and his country life replete with chickens in the back yard, and nosey horses for neighbours.

Introducing Erika Nesvold

Erika Nesvold is a Carnegie Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. She grew up in a military family and has lived on numerous army bases in the U.S. and Europe. After completing a B.S. in mathematics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, she decided at the last possible moment to give astronomy a try, and moved all the way across the UMBC campus to complete an M.S. and Ph.D in the physics department. She did most of her graduate research at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, working with Marc Kuchner on developing a circumstellar debris disk model that included collisions between planetesimals. Now at Carnegie, Erika is continuing to develop and apply her debris disk models in collaboration with astronomers from Los Angeles to Boston. Erika currently lives just over the river in Alexandria, Virginia, and works every Sunday as a volunteer firefighter and EMT at the Odenton Volunteer Fire Company in Maryland, where she has been a member for nearly thirteen years. She also tweets (inconsistently) @erikanesvold and occasionally blogs for, a graduate student-run arXiv reader’s digest, and, a wellspring of fascinating stories from history, science, and the history of science.

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!