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.

Introducing Jana Grcevich

I’m the outreach coordinator for Columbia University’s Astronomy Department, and an adjunct instructor at the Cooper Union School of Art and at the American Museum of Natural History. I received my PhD from Columbia University for work on dwarf galaxies and interstellar gas. I was the Kathryn W. Davis Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History, where I taught future high-school science teachers with the Master of Arts in Teaching program, and where I host shows for the Astronomy Live series at the Hayden planetarium. I was an Insight Data Science fellow, and worked as a data scientist and consultant with Schireson Associates for a year and a half doing television ad targeting using machine learning. I was also a Simon’s Foundation Science Sandbox Fellow working on the interpretation of astronomical data for the public.

I have been a long time “space travel agent” and collaborator with Guerilla Science‘s Intergalactic Travel Bureau events, most recently at the Exploratorium. I co-wrote a space-oriented travel guide, the Vacation Guide to the Solar System, published by Penguin Random House in 2017, and worked on the free virtual reality Space Vacation app. I also enjoy printmaking, paper marbling, and textile arts.

Reintroducing Michael West

Michael West is Deputy Director for Science at Lowell Observatory. He has been a professional astronomer for more than three decades and feels blessed to be able to explore the universe for a living. He received his PhD in astronomy from Yale University and held research, teaching and leadership positions at universities and observatories on four continents before joining Lowell in 2015.

Michael’s research is extragalactic in focus. Over the years he has studied giant cannibal galaxies, orphaned star clusters, the cosmic web, and other curios of the cosmos.  He began his career as a theoretical astrophysicist – his PhD thesis was a computational study of how the properties of galaxy clusters might depend on the type of dark matter that dominates the universe – but he gradually moved into observational astronomy.

Michael is passionate about sharing the wonders of the universe with people of all ages, and currently serves on the IAU’s Commission C2 on Communicating Astronomy with the Public. He loves writing and is particularly fascinated by the interplay between science and culture. His essays have been published by The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Scientific American, Astronomy magazine and more. He has also written two books, most recently A Sky Wonderful with Stars: 50 Years of Modern Astronomy on Maunakea, and he’s hard at work on his next book.

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 Kovi Rose

Kovi Rose is a final year physics undergraduate at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is a research assistant, in the Racah Institute of Physics, on an observational astrophysics team that uses radio telescopes to study core-collapse supernovae. In order to create a more extensive catalogue of supernovae and other bright radio sources, the team monitors the discoveries and classifications of low redshift astronomical transients, conducting follow-up observations and analyses of the radio emissions coming from these stellar objects.

Having noticed the increasing trend of anti-intellectualism and science denial, Kovi developed a passion for science communication and outreach. After the creation of @funfactscience, a Facebook/Twitter/Instagram science communication platform, Kovi has worked with an international team science communicators and educators on a number outreach campaigns; centered around topics like women in STEM and astronomy.

Outside of his online efforts, Kovi works for the Ramon Foundation in a project-based learning program which culminates in the launch of an experiment to the International Space Station. In his remaining free time Kovi volunteers with the HORIZON space educators community as well as SpaceIL, the privately funded Israeli nonprofit set to land a spacecraft on the Moon in February 2019.

Introducing Gourav Khullar

Gourav Khullar (@isskywalker, Pronouns: he/him) is a PhD Candidate at the University of Chicago, affiliated with the Dept. of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and the Kavli Institute of Cosmological Physics. An Indian national, he has been in Chicago since 2015, having moved to the US from the University of Cambridge with a masters degree in Astrophysics, and the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi with a bachelors degree in Engineering Physics.
Gourav’s research focuses on the astrophysics of member galaxies of high-redshift galaxy clusters, which he studies via tools like optical-infrared spectroscopy and strong gravitational lensing. Gourav is part of the South Pole Telescope (SPT) Clusters collaboration, and is also affiliated with the Dark Energy Survey (DES). Counting himself as an observer and an analyst, Gourav is a frequent user of the Magellan Telescopes and the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile for his research. His past work as an undergraduate and masters student includes an analysis of host galaxy properties in DES-discovered active galactic nuclei (AGN), understanding chemical enrichment in galaxy environments via simulations and observations, spectroscopic studies of Type Ib supernovae, and building stellar speckle interferometric apparatus in a laboratory that mimic adaptive optics systems on telescopes.
Outside astrophysics research, Gourav has also been a part of the Astrobites collaboration since 2015, both as a science communication writer-editor and an education researcher. Gourav also works on issues of social justice, having co-founded initiatives like the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Journal Club (DEIJC) at UChicago, a platform that helps early-career astrophysicists create an equitable and inclusive local community through peer education. He is an organizer and officer with Graduate Students United – UChicago’s graduate worker union – which has been fighting for labor rights for graduate members of the UChicago community. On a light day, you would find Gourav reading non-fiction books, listening to Punjabi music, or at a movie theatre checking out the latest superhero flick!

Introducing David Wilson

David Wilson (@astrodave2) is a postdoc at the University of Texas at Austin, having recently moved there after completing his PhD at the University of Warwick. His research focuses on observing M dwarf and white dwarf stars using Hubble and other space telescopes. He uses those observations to explore the effects of stellar activity on extrasolar planets and to study the remnants of planetary systems around dead stars. In particular, David is a member of the Mega-Muscles collaboration, which is using a large number of telescopes to produce an archive of pan-chromatic M dwarf spectra.

Along with his research, David is also interested in science communication and outreach. During his PhD he was a writer for the Astrobites collaboration and regularly visited local schools to give talks and present planetarium shows. When not working, David can usually be found reading sci-fi books or adding to his space-themed Lego collection.

Introducing Emily Hunt

Emily Hunt (@emilydoesastro) is a final year undergraduate at the University of Bath in the UK. She is approaching the end of a summer internship, with the aim of improving the knowledge of dust extinction to variable stars in the Magellanic clouds by using parallax data from the Gaia satellite. The past couple of months have been an adventure in learning about Bayesian statistics, variable stars, and doing large-scale data analysis in Python. Emily is also passionate about equality and diversity in science, being involved in running a Network of Women in Physics at her university and being an advocate for LGBT+ people in STEM.

In her spare time, Emily does live sound engineering and plays guitar. She grew up in Coventry in the middle of the UK, and developed her passion for space after a family move nearer to the countryside with a darker night sky. She’s also a science fiction buff, and has an arduino called Lovelace.

Introducing Jessie Christiansen

Dr. Jessie Christiansen (@aussiastronomer) is a research scientist at the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at Caltech. She searches for, studies, and catalogues extrasolar planets — planets orbiting other stars. Her main research focuses on using the thousands of exoplanets found by the NASA Kepler and K2 missions to determine how common planets similar to the Earth might be throughout the Galaxy, and she is getting ready to do the same with the NASA TESS mission.

She is an avid science communicator, and is particularly engaged with reaching and elevating under-represented minorities in the sciences. When she is more engaged with this particular planet, she is chasing her twin 3-year-olds around, enjoying various sci-fi/fantasy fandoms, and is married to fellow astronomer @PFHopkins_Astro.