Introducing Heidi Thiemann

Heidi Thiemann (@heidi_teaman) is a PhD student in astronomy at The Open University in Milton Keynes. Her research focuses on the creation of catalogue of rotatationally modulated stars with an X-ray counterpart (aka stars with star spots) in the SuperWASP All Sky Survey and the XMM-Newton catalogue. Through machine learning, she will use such stars to study the relationship between the rotation period and X-ray activity of stars, which may be able to tell us more about exoplanetary atmospheres and habitability.
Before her PhD, Heidi did an MPhys in Physics with Space Science and Technology at the University of Leicester, and blames a family friend for getting her interested in astronomy at the age of 11.
Outside of research, she co-runs a space-themed careers website for young people (@spacecareersuk), and is a senior mentor at Space School UK. To escape from astronomy, Heidi spends her time running, baking, attempting to learn Japanese, and wishing she could spend her entire PhD stipend on learning to fly.

Introducing Mia de los Reyes

Mia de los Reyes (@MiaDoesAstro) just finished her first year of the PhD program in astronomy at Caltech! Mia’s research mostly focuses on nearby galaxies—how they form stars, and the chemical compositions of those stars. She’s currently working on measuring manganese in dwarf galaxies near the Milky Way, which can tell us about the physics of some of the supernovae that exploded in these galaxies. Before escaping to sunny California, she did her undergrad in physics and math at North Carolina State University and spent a year doing an MPhil degree at the University of Cambridge.
Mia is also passionate about science-related things other than research, including: equity and inclusion in science, science policy, and science outreach. As part of her unending campaign to get people to care about galaxies, she writes for Astrobites (@astrobites). Perhaps even more importantly, Mia also cares about rock climbing, literally anything related to Tolkien, and finding and consuming free food.

Introducing: Julie Rathbun

Julie Rathbun is a planetary scientist who studies moons of the outer solar system.  Her favorite place is Io and her favorite feature is the volcano Loki.  Her research on Loki has included ground-based and spacecraft observations and she’s also studied spatial and temporal variations in Ionian volcanoes.  When not studying Io, she’s usually studying Europa and is a member of the E-THEMIS team on Europa Clipper. She is currently a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute and a Professor of Physics at the University of Redlands.  In addition to her research, Julie is heavily involved in diversity work and has presented extensively on women on spacecraft science teams.  She is also currently chair of the Division of Planetary Sciences Professional Culture and Climate Subcommittee (PCCS).  You can normally find her tweeting from @LokiVolcano.

Introducing René Ortega-Minakata

René A. Ortega-Minakata is a Mexican astronomer. He got a bachelor in physics at the University of Guadalajara (Mexico) in 2009 and later a Master’s and PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Guanajuato (also Mexico) in 2015. He later went to Valongo Observatory in Rio de Janeiro as a postdoc for one year and afterwards joined the Institute of Astronomy at UNAM in Mexico City, where he currently works also as a postdoc.
He is interested in the evolution of galaxies, particularly the relationship between their local (spatially-resolved) and global properties, feedback processes from AGN and star formation, and the relation of galaxies with their environment. He currently works with CALIFA, SDSS-MaNGA and MUSE data.
He is also interested in inclusiveness and equality in astronomy and academia in general.

Introducing Emily Rice

Dr. Emily Rice is an astronomer, professor, and creative science communicator in New York City. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Science & Physics at the College of Staten Island of the City University of New York (CUNY), faculty in the physics Ph.D. program at the CUNY Graduate Center, and resident research associate in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). She studies low mass stars, brown dwarfs (sometimes called “failed” stars), and directly-imaged exoplanets by analyzing their spectra and modeling their atmospheres. Her research group, Brown Dwarfs in New York City (BDNYC) has received funding from NASA and the NSF, and she is a co-author on 30 refereed publications. In 2015 Dr. Rice was an inaugural recipient of the Henry Wasser Award for Outstanding Scholarship from the CUNY Academy for the Humanities and Sciences. She earned her Ph.D. at UCLA in Astronomy & Astrophysics and undergraduate degrees from the University of Pittsburgh in Physics & Astronomy and German. In addition to her research, she co-authored of a suite of labs for introductory college-level astronomy courses called Astronomy Labs: A Concept Oriented Approach, available through Pearson. She frequently gives public presentations, including at the Hayden Planetarium at AMNH, and makes media appearances, produces science parody videos, organizes and hosts Astronomy on Tap events at bars in NYC, and shares astronomy-inspired fashion on the STARtorialist blog.

Introducing Jillian Scudder

Jillian Scudder (@Jillian_Scudder) is an extragalactic astronomer and assistant professor at Oberlin College in Ohio. Her research focuses on interactions between galaxies, trying to understand both what controls the strength of a galaxy’s response to an interaction, and how those responses change over cosmic time.

Jillian’s PhD work was completed at the University of Victoria in BC, Canada, studying the both star formation and the metal content of nearby pair galaxies in the local Universe. She then moved to a postdoc at the University of Sussex, in the UK, where she shifted her research focus to the more distant universe, using the far infrared as a tracer of the most highly star forming systems (which potentially could trace interactions) to try and understand much younger galaxies. She began her position at Oberlin College in July.  Her work is highly statistical in nature, using carefully selected, large samples of galaxies to determine differences between populations, and makes frequent use of comparisons to simulations.

Jillian also has written the public outreach blog Astroquizzical (@astroquizzical) for the past five years, and has a book based on the blog (Astroquizzical: a curious journey through our cosmic family tree) coming out March 8th in the UK & digitally, and in June in the US. Outside of work and writing, Jillian spends time hanging out with her dog, playing video games, and enjoying life in a small town.

Introducing James Davenport

James Davenport (@jradavenport) is a NSF Astronomy & Astrophysics postdoctoral fellow at Western Washington University, and a research fellow at the University of Washington’s new DIRAC Institute. His research is focused on stars, magnetic activity, flares, and starspots. He primarily uses data from the NASA Kepler and K2 missions, and is currently working on projects involving upcoming data releases from Gaia and ZTF.
For the past 5 years, Davenport has run a demographics survey of the annual AAS meetings that studies the gender dynamics of conference talks and Q/A periods. This work has found that men ask nearly twice as many talks as women in conference settings. However, the study is currently looking at ways to help level the playing field for all conference attendees. See this link for more details. (
Davenport currently maintains a monthly newsletter highlighting the latest in academic SETI research (, and is the author of the data, science, and visualization blog If We Assume ( He earned his PhD from the University of Washington in 2015.