Introducing Mary Beth Laychak

Mary Beth Laychak is the Outreach Program Manager at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Mary Beth has an undergraduate degree in astronomy and astrophysics from Penn State University and a masters degree in educational technology from San Diego State.  Her passions include astronomy, sharing astronomy with the public and astronomy based crafts.


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 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 or @elakdawalla on Twitter.

Reintroducing JJ Eldridge

JJ Eldridge (@astro_jje) is a theoretical astrophysics who studied for their PhD at the University of Cambridge in the UK. Then worked as a post-doc in Paris, Belfast and then returned to Cambridge. In 2011 they became a lecturer at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Their research interest involve stars (especially binaries!), galaxies, supernovae and study these across the Universe, from our own Sun to those at the edge of the observable Universe. They are co-PI on the Binary Population and Spectral Synthesis (BPASS) code that was created to facilitate their research.

JJ is a passionate and effective teacher all levels of undergraduate and postgraduate study. They also work to increase how equitable and inclusivity of academia.

They are also a hoopy frood who loves science fiction in all forms (books, TV series, movies and computer games) and they also always know where their towel is.


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.

Introducing Ryan Anderson

Dr. Ryan B. Anderson (@Ryan_B_Anderson) is a planetary scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, AZ, where he works on a mix of research and software development.  He got his PhD in Planetary Science from Cornell University. His thesis research played a role in the selection of Gale Crater as the landing site for the Curiosity Mars rover, and his work on analyzing Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) data with neural networks and other methods led to a role on the ChemCam science team. Ryan is also a member of the science team for the SuperCam instrument on the upcoming Mars 2020 rover and has a few smaller grants of his own, including two Mars geomorphology projects, and one to develop an open-source Python tool for analyzing LIBS (and other) spectra. He is also involved in a NASA-funded project to develop planetary science-themed after school activities for middle school students.

Ryan is passionate about science communication and education. He founded the Martian Chronicles blog, and enjoys giving public talks and generally sharing the excitement of science and planetary exploration.

Outside of work, Ryan enjoys spending time with his wife, baby, and two dogs. He also writes at his personal blog about non-science topics, and sometimes dabbles in fiction writing. He spends too much time on social media, and not enough on fun things like hiking and skiing.

Reintroducing Ángel R. López-Sánchez

Dr. Ángel R. López-Sánchez is an astronomer and science communicator at the Australian Astronomical Observatory and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the Macquarie University. He studies how gas is converted into stars in nearby galaxies and how this affects galaxy evolution. He also provides support for visiting astronomers to the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT, Siding Spring Observatory, NSW). Dr. López-Sánchez is passionate science communicator who continuously gives talks and public lectures, writes popular science articles and organizes stargazing activities. He is very active in social media, his Twitter feed is @El_Lobo_Rayado.

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