Introducing Ira Thorpe

Ira Thorpe (@IraThorpe) is an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Ira’s research focus is the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), a space-based observatory of gravitational waves that will extend our capabilities in this exciting new area of astrophysics. Sometimes called the “Hubble for Gravitational Waves”, LISA will observe merging massive black holes in the early universe, the capture of compact objects by massive black holes, millions of close compact binaries in the Milky Way, and perhaps signals that are entirely unexpected. LISA was recently approved as a new mission by the European Space Agency and is expected to have a significant NASA contribution. Ira serves as the lead US scientist for the NASA effort.

Born and raised in the mountains outside Santa Fe, New Mexico, Ira studied Mechanical Engineering and Physics at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA before entering the Physics graduate program at the University of Maryland. While at UMD, Ira began a graduate internship at Goddard working with the nascent LISA project. After moving to The University of Florida to complete his Ph.D., Ira returned to Goddard as a postdoc and later converted to a position in the federal civil service. Ira lives with his wife and three young boys in the suburbs of Washington, DC. Any time that is not covered by science or parenting will typically find Ira running, cycling, or hiking.

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Introducing Luke Dones

Luke grew up in San Antonio, Texas and attended Harvard, where he majored in physics. He got his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. His thesis dealt with density waves in Saturn’s rings and the photometric properties of the rings as seen in Voyager images. He did a postdoc at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and another postdoc at CITA in Toronto. He then returned to NASA Ames, where he worked on “soft money” for seven years. Since 1999 he has worked at the Boulder office of Southwest Research Institute, where he is currently a Principal Scientist.

Luke’s research interests are mainly focused in the outer solar system, particularly the orbital dynamics of comets, Kuiper Belt objects, and planetary satellites and rings, and the impact histories of icy satellites. He is a member of the Imaging Team of the Cassini mission to Saturn.

Introducing Kristin Block

This week, February 24-March 1, 2014, features Kristin Block. Kristin is a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. Kristin works on spacecraft science operations, at the point where science and engineering meet. She is currently a Senior Targeting Specialist for the HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, where she designs and commands observations of the surface, other spacecraft and landed assets, and the occasional passing comet. She’s proud to be part of the group that has won a NASA team award for its unprecedented images of Mars and new views into how the planet changes with time.

Kristin was a member of the Phoenix Mars Lander Optical Microscope team and has worked in laboratory-based astrobiology, researching the effects of lightning and meteorites on elements necessary for life. Planetary science is Kristin’s second career; before returning to grad school she performed and taught upright bass.

The other 51 weeks of the year, you can find Kristin at @MarsMaven.