General Research Interests:
Exoplanets and their atmospheres
Intersection between theoretical & observational astronomy
Cosmochemistry & planetary science
Astrobiology and life beyond Earth
Current Research Projects: UC Santa Cruz (2017-Today)
The main objectives of my current research project are to modify an existing code to create a flexible exoplanet atmosphere modeling tool with a focus on mini-Neptune to Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone around M and K stars, and to use this tool to aid in identifying the best targets from NASA’s TESS and ongoing ground-based surveys for follow-up observations with JWST and future large-aperture telescopes such as TMT, GMT and E-ELT. Simulating the pressure-temperature structure and visible and thermal spectra of a planet's atmosphere, I have used the current state of the code to determine, of the currently confirmed exoplanets, which ones will be prime targets for observations on the upcoming Extremely Large Telescopes, especially the Planetary Systems Imager (PSI) planned for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), in particular with J-band (1.25 microns) reflected light and thermal infrared. Currently in the design phase, PSI's 2-5 micron instrument (PSI-Red) is a planned science instrument for TMT and will have the ability to collect low-, medium- and high-resolution spectroscopy via integral field spectrographs. Using the modeling tool to create a suite of model super-Earth-like planets composed of various elemental abundances at varying distances from a variety of host star spectral types, I will also analyze which of these model planets will be detectable and at which wavebands with TMT's PSI.
My second research project aims to understand the link between a planet’s composition and it’s atmospheric composition through meteorite outgassing experiments. I will take meteorites, the leftover building blocks of planets, and heat them to see what volatiles are outgassed. Our Solar System presents a wide variety of meteorite types, including chondrites which are primitive unaltered rocks believed to be representative of the material that formed the rocky planets. I will perform the meteorite heating experiments and incorporate their results into a new surface boundary condition in the modeling code.
Carnegie Institution for Science (DTM) Research (2016-2017 Academic Year)
9-month Astronomy Research Trainee position under the mentorship of Drs. Alycia Weinberger and Alan Boss. Analyzing data of an unusually warm, dusty debris disk around a binary star system (BD +20 307) from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) and comparing this epoch of data to two earlier epochs taken with Spitzer and Keck/Gemini to see if we can understand the evolution of this system's dust (Thompson et al. in prep). Also conducting analysis for the Carnegie Astrometric Planet Search program which hopes to astrometrically detect exoplanets and brown dwarf companions using data from the CAPSCam camera on the 2.5-meter du Pont Telescope at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, and combining data from CAPSCam with that from the recent Gaia satellite data release.
Undergraduate Senior Thesis Research (2015-2016 Academic Year)
8-month Senior Thesis research project under the mentorship of Professor David Spergel. Developed an original approximate model to aid in the astrometric detection and characterization of multiple exoplanet systems. Wrote Python code to model stellar motion in over 50 hypothetical two- and three-exoplanet systems and incorporated a least-squares fit program to assess its efficiency in planet characterization.