Cathy Olkin (@colkin) is a planetary scientist at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, CO. Her main topic of research is the outer solar system, specifically planetary atmospheres and surfaces. She is the Deputy Project Scientist for NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. The New Horizons mission provided the first close-up images of Pluto and its moons in 2015. It is currently en route to encounter a close classical Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule. She is also the Deputy Principal Investigator for NASA’s Lucy mission. The Lucy mission will be the first spacecraft to visit the Trojan asteroids. Cathy also carries out ground-based observations including stellar occultations to learn about the size and atmosphere of small worlds and is the current Chair of the Division for Planetary Science of the American Astronomical Society.
In her free time, Cathy mentors FIRST robotics programs providing hands-on STEM education for students from 4th grade to 12th grade.
Dr Michele Bannister (@astrokiwi) is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Director’s Outreach Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast, United Kingdom. An expert in the discovery and characterization of minor planets in the Solar System, she has been involved in the discovery of more than eight hundred new minor planets that orbit beyond Neptune. Originally from New Zealand, Bannister has worked at institutes in Australia, the US, and Canada. She was honoured in 2017 by the International Astronomical Union with asteroid (10463) Bannister.
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.
Meg uses large surveys to probe the small body reservoirs in the Solar System. She 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 and Comet Hunters citizen science projects to respectively map seasonal fans on the south pole of Mars, characterize surface features on the Martian South Pole, map polygonal ridges in the Martian mid latitudes, and search for cometary activity in the asteroid belt.
You can find Meg on twitter at @megschwamb
Meenakshi (Mini) Wadhwa (@minwadhwa) is Director of the Center for Meteorite Studies (@ASUMeteorites) and Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration (@SESEASU) at Arizona State University. Her research focuses on the origin and evolution of the Solar System and planets through geochemical and isotopic studies of meteorites, Moon rocks and other extraterrestrial samples returned by spacecraft missions. She has hunted for meteorites in Antarctica with the NASA- and NSF-funded Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) Program.
Mini holds a PhD in Earth and Planetary Science from Washington University in St. Louis. Following her doctorate, she was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California at San Diego, and was subsequently appointed as Curator of Meteorites at the Field Museum in Chicago. She moved to ASU in 2006 and has been there since. At ASU, she feels incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to work with some wonderfully talented students and colleagues, and loves the variety and the challenge afforded by the diverse responsibilities of her position. Outside of work, she enjoys outdoors activities; she loves hiking, running, biking and swimming. She received her pilot’s license (single engine rating) when she moved to Arizona, and enjoys scuba diving as well.
Dr Michele Bannister is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Victoria, in British Columbia. She specializes in searching for icy worlds in the outer Solar System, and has been involved in the discovery of more than five hundred new trans-Neptunian objects. Michele works with the Outer Solar System Origins Survey, a collaboration of nearly fifty researchers around the world, who are trying to understand the formation and evolution of the Solar System using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Maunakea.
Originally from Waitara in New Zealand, Michele studied astronomy and geology for her B.Sc (Hons) as an Aurora Scholar at the University of Canterbury, including nine weeks of geophysics field work in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. Her PhD at Mt Stromlo Observatory of the Australian National University and at Caltech used the data from a small telescope at Siding Spring to search for bright icy worlds in the southern sky. After three years on hummingbird-rich and snow-free Vancouver Island, she’ll be moving to Belfast from August to become a Research Fellow at Queens’ University. You can find her tweeting about icy worlds and the non-sidereal life at @astrokiwi.