Reintroducing Jonathan Fortney

Jonathan Fortney is a Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of California, Santa Cruz, and the director of their Other Worlds Laboratory ( He received his PhD in Planetary Sciences in 2004 from the University of Arizona and was a postdoc for 4 years at NASA Ames Research Center before starting at UC Santa Cruz in 2008.

Jonathan’s major fields of interest are the atmospheres, interiors, spectra, composition, and evolution of planets, both inside and outside the solar system.  He focuses on modeling and theory of these objects, with targets that range from terrestrial planets to brown dwarfs.  He was a member of the Kepler Science Team during its prime mission and is currently a member of the Cassini Science Team.

Introducing Steven Rieder

Steven Rieder (@rieder) is a postdoctoral researcher at RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science in Kobe, Japan. He is a computational astronomer, investigating the interaction of objects on scales from planetary dust rings to the cosmic web. His simulation tool-of-choice for this is AMUSE : a Python interface to a range of community codes.
Born in the Netherlands, Steven did his MSc at Utrecht University and his PhD at Leiden University, on a combined astrophysics/computation science project. Parallel to his PhD, he was the editor of Dutch astronomy youth magazine “Universum” and a board member of the Dutch Youth Association for Astronomy “JWG”. He is an amateur observer, currently without access to a telescope. In no specific order, he is fond of photography, board games, cycling, exploring Japan, guitars and bunnies.

Introducing Abigail Stevens

Abigail Stevens is a PhD candidate at the Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. She researches X-ray spectral variability from compact objects (stellar-mass black holes and neutron stars) in order to understand the extreme physics in strong gravitational fields, and is very excited for NICER to be launched in a few months. Abbie is also a “pythonomer” and is involved in the open science community. Previously, Abbie did her MSc at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and her BA at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, USA. In addition to her astronomy research, she enjoys tea, interior design, memes, reading blogs, watching tv, and exploring new places.

Introducing John Bochanski

John Bochanski is an Assistant Profesor of Physics at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.  His astronomy research is focused on using cool stars (both dwarfs and giants) to understand the structure and dynamics of the Milky Way.  John has primarily used survey data, including the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, 2MASS, UKIDSS and others.  In addition to his survey work, John helped build and commission FIRE, an IR spectrograph on the Magellan telescopes.  John also periodically writes for Sky & Telescope.

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

Introducing Molly Peeples

Molly Peeples (@astronomolly) is an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. She studies how galaxies change through time, with a focus on the origin and fate of the heavy elements, which has led her to a several year obsession over the extensive gaseous halos surrounding galaxies known as the circumgalactic medium. Molly considers herself a theorist, but is often found working closely with data and instruments, in an ongoing pursuit of getting fake data to look like real data. When she isn’t traveling, cooking, or hiking (and sometimes when she is), Molly also works on the Hubble Space Telescope and preparing for the WFIRST mission.

Introducing Sarah Jane Schmidt

Sarah Jane Schmidt (@sjs917) is a postdoctoral fellow at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics – Potsdam (AIP). The unifying theme of her work is the objects she studies: the lowest mass stars and a few of the warmest brown dwarfs. Within those guidelines, she drifts from magnetic activity to kinematics to spectroscopic features to metallicities either on individual objects or using “medium data.” Sarah is primarily an observer and often works with survey data – some of her most exciting recent projects have been with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN), and Kepler K2.
In addition to tweeting a lot about magnetic fields and flares, Sarah plans to also discuss some topics related to equity and inclusion in Astronomy, including her work as co-chair of the Committee on Inclusion in SDSS (COINS).
Sarah grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, then moved to NYC to get a BA at Barnard College (2006) and to Seattle to complete a PhD at University of Washington (2012). Before moving to Berlin, Sarah was the Columbus Postdoctoral Fellow at Ohio State University. Outside work, she nerds out about public transit, sings in multiple choirs, and cooks with her husband.