Introducing Szilárd Gyalay

Szilárd Gyalay (@sgyalay) is currently a PhD student in the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Earth and Planetary Science department where he studies Saturn’s mid-sized icy moons. Using geophysical techniques, he infers which moons may have oceans beneath their ice shells.

Szilárd earned his bachelor’s at UCLA majoring in astrophysics and minoring in geophysics and planetary physics. There he researched the bulk infrared properties of the moon. In his spare time he rock climbs or plays video games and board games.

Introducing Brian Jackson

I am an assistant professor teaching astronomy in the Physics Department at Boise State University.

Before coming to Boise State, I was a postdoctoral fellow at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Dept. of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington DC and before that, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt MD.

I earned my PhD in Planetary Science from the University of Arizona‘s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson AZ and my BS in Physics from Georgia Tech in Atlanta GA.

My research focuses primarily on orbital dynamics and transit observations of extrasolar planets, planets outside of our solar system. I also do some planetary science field work, notably on Death Valley’s Racetrack Playa and on terrestrial and Martian dust devils.

When I’m not chasing my  daughter around the house, I enjoy running around Boise and learning classical guitar.

Introducing Beth Johnson

Beth Johnson is a graduate student in geology at San Jose State University in California. She is also the social media coordinator for the SETI Institute, where she shares not only the news, outreach, and photographs of the Institute’s work but curates a wide variety of astronomy, space, and planetary news from other sources. Her master’s research may be grounded in submarine volcanoes here on Earth, but she hopes to apply what she learns to cryovolcanoes in our solar system, particularly at Europa and Enceladus. Prior to her graduate studies, she completed her undergraduate work, also at SJSU, in physics with an emphasis in astrophysics. She worked on several research projects at the university, including looking for earthquake precursor signals in MgO and analyzing galactic evolution processes. She spent the summer of 2013 in an internship via CAMPARE (Cal Poly Pomona) at the SETI Institute, where she worked with Dr. Peter Jenniskens on NASA’s Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance project (CAMS). She analyzed the data for numerous meteor tracks and helped find several new meteor showers. She presented posters on her research at both winter and summer AAS conferences in 2014. In her personal life, she is the wife of a Canadian network engineer/hockey player, the mother of an almost-teenager, and the guardian of five cats. She is passionate about science communication and education and can be found on many social media sites as planetarypan. She volunteers with the local Astronomy on Tap group to publicize and help host their monthly events. She recently joined the Weekly Space Hangout Crew and will be a regular on the show starting in October. She has ambitious plans to launch her own Twitch stream later this year.

Re-introducing Sarah McIntyre

I’m Sarah McIntyre (@ExoBioExplorer) a PhD student at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University.

My current research aims to examine the effect that a diverse range of astronomical and planetary parameters have on an exoplanet’s ability to sustain liquid water. I spend most of my time working on exoplanet models and simulations and doing lab experiments. Long term research plans include helping determine optimal targets for near-future ground- and space-based observations of planetary atmospheres and the potential detection of life in space.

When not exploring exoplanets I read (lately mainly about AI/machine learning), compose, play piano (or violin) and travel.

Re-introducing Meg Schwamb

Meg Schwamb is currently an assistant scientist at Gemini Observatory. She also serves as the NIRI (Near-InfraRed Imager) instrument scientist at Gemini North in Hilo, Hawai’i.  She is a planetary scientist and astronomer focusing on understanding how planets and their building blocks form and evolve. Starting later this year, Meg will be island hopping. She’ll be leaving the Big Island of Hawai’i and heading to Northern Ireland.  Later this year, Meg will be joining Queen’s University Belfast as a lecturer in the Astrophysics Research Centre.

Meg uses large surveys to probe the small body reservoirs in the Solar System. Her work focuses on studying the orbital and surface properties of Kuiper belt objects, like Pluto in the Outer Solar System.  Meg is currently serving as co-chair of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Solar System Science Collaboration. Meg also mines large datasets via citizen science, enlisting hundreds of thousands of people worldwide in the research effort. She is currently involved in the  Planet Four , Planet Four: Terrains, Planet Four: Ridges citizen science projects to respectively map seasonal fans on the south pole of Mars, characterize surface features on the Martian South Pole and map polygonal ridges in the Martian mid latitudes

You can find Meg on twitter at @megschwamb

Introducing Aswin Sekhar

Dr Aswin Sekhar is a solar system dynamicist at Armagh Observatory & Planetarium, Northern Ireland. His work mainly focuses on the dynamical evolution of small solar system bodies like meteoroids, comets and asteroids.

He is the first professional meteor astronomer from India. In addition to research, he contributes popular science articles to various national and international media. He does multiple science public outreach projects in India for rural schools and university students.

Apart from sciency stuff, he enjoys swimming, badminton, cricket, chess, experimenting various Indian recipes, playing Tabla (Indian drums), treks on mountains, sipping beer near beaches and gambling card games for non-astronomical sums of money! Having said all this, he is not an expert in any of these things mentioned above!


Re-introducing Kat Volk

I’m Kat Volk (@kat_volk), a staff scientist at the University of Arizona’s Department of Planetary Sciences/Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson, Arizona. My research mostly involves a mix of theoretical and observational studies of trans-Neptunian objects (aka Kuiper belt objects) in the outer solar system, with a focus on how their orbits can help us understand the dynamical history of the giant planets in our solar system. I also study the dynamics of exoplanet systems like those discovered by the Kepler mission.

I got my PhD in planetary science from the University of Arizona in 2013. I then spent two years working at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, mostly as part of the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS) which discovered more than 800 objects in the outer solar system. I moved back to Tucson in 2015 to continue a variety of research projects. You can find research updates on my website:

Introducing Henry Throop

Henry Throop is a planetary astronomer based in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the outer solar system, and he has published over 40 articles in scientific journals, on topics ranging from to rings of Saturn and Jupiter, to planet and star formation, to astrobiology and the origins of life, to searching for (and co-discovering) Pluto’s smallest moon, Styx, in 2012. Throop is member of the science team for NASA’s New Horizons mission, and was involved in its historic flyby of Pluto in 2015 and Ultima Thule in 2019. He received a PhD in Planetary Science from the University of Colorado, in 2000. Throop is a program officer at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC, where he is a program manager for NASA’s planetary research program.

Throop has spent much of his career bringing astronomy to the developing world. While living for eight years in Africa, India, and Mexico, he worked extensively with schools and community groups, helping to develop their science programs and inspire the next generation of leaders. He has presented more than 150 lectures for science festivals, planetariums, school groups, and public events across the world. Throop’s work has been featured in Science, Nature, Time, The Washington Post, and on the History Channel and National Geographic TV, as well as dozens of newspapers from Pakistan to Hungary to Namibia.

Throop’s work has won him broad accolades. In 2017 he was awarded both the US State Department’s Avis Bohlen Award, and the American Astronomical Society’s Carl Sagan Medal, for his work in science communication and outreach to the public. Asteroid “193736 Henrythroop” was named in his honor.

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 Cesare Grava

I am a Research Scientist at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. I got both my master’s degree and my PhD in Astronomy at the University of Padua, Italy, where Galileo discovered the Jovian moons and ushered the modern era of astronomy, with a thesis on (among other objects)… Io, one of the Galilean moons. I study the exospheres of airless bodies in the Solar System: the Moon, Io, Mercury… you name it. I combine Monte Carlo modeling with data analysis (spectroscopy), with data taken both from the ground and from space. I am deputy project scientist of LAMP, UV spectrograph on board the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and I am on the team of Strofio, a mass spectrometer that is currently en route to Mercury on BepiColombo. You can find me on twitter at @cesaregrava

Besides astronomy (especially planetary science), my passions are (in no particular order): movies (including some blockbusters), geography, traveling, hiking, Queen, and photography.