Sasha Hinkley, Postdoctoral Scholar
Sasha Hinkley is a Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow at Caltech. His interests are most broadly focused on obtaining direct images of exoplanets—a technique that uses specialized instruments to overcome the huge contrast barrier between a bright star and any faint planets that might be orbiting it.
Jon Swift, Postdoctoral Scholar
I find all facets of astronomy fascinating and have had the pleasure of participating in several areas of research: from molecular clouds, to star formation, to circumstellar disk evolution, and now planet formation and evolution. As part of Professor Johnson's ExoLab group I am participating in a wide array of research topics as well as serving as manager for Project MINERVA—an observatory to be placed on Palomar Mountain designed to find the nearest and lowest mass exoplanets using relatively inexpensive, commercial components.
Philip Muirhead, Postdoctoral Scholar
I develop novel instrumentation for ground-based telescopes to detect and characterize extrasolar planets and their host stars, with an emphasis on terrestrial exoplanets orbiting low-mass stars (aka M dwarfs, aka red dwarfs). I am particularly interested in high-throughput, fiber-feb spectroscopy and the integration of lock-in amplification techniques and zero-read-noise detectors into optical astronomy.
Michael Bottom, Graduate Student
I am a 3rd-year graduate student in the Astrophysics department. I am interested in experimental astrophysics, particularly applied to exoplanet detection and characterization. My hobbies include music, food, animals, puns, and exercise.
Kristina Hogstrom, Graduate Student
I am a first-year graduate student in GALCIT (Graduate Aerospace Laboratories Caltech), working toward a Ph.D. in Space Engineering. My research interests include the identification and exploration of potentially habitable regions beyond Earth, both within and outside the solar system. I am particularly interested in the study of exoplanet candidates in the habitable zones of unconventional star systems (e.g. binaries), as well as the exploration of solar system moons that potentially hold liquid water. For my Ph.D. thesis, I will be working under Professor John Johnson on the MINERVA observatory project, using my unique position as an engineer interested in astronomical applications to design remote control and automation systems for the telescope, dome, and instrumentation. In the future, I want to design a rover capable of landing on and traversing the surface of Enceladus, in hopes of verifying the presence of sub-surface liquid water and assessing the moon’s capability for harboring life.
Melodie Kao, Graduate Student
I am a first-year Ph.D. student at Caltech, collaborating with John Johnson and Heather Knutson to study planet migration mechanisms. Prior to Caltech, I also studied how the intergalactic medium evolves, galaxy formation, and galaxy cluster properties. I am fascinated by all things astronomy and especially like to think about how astrophysical systems became what they are today. My enthusiasm for how systems are constructed continues in my abiding interest in architecture and music. Additionally, I love running, traveling, film photography, and mentoring students.
Ben Montet, Graduate Student
I am currently a first-year Ph.D. student here at Caltech. At present, I am studying the frequency and distribution of Jovian planets in wide orbits around M-dwarfs using radial velocity data and a variety of statistical techniques. More broadly, I tend to be interested in problems at the intersection of astronomy and statistics, where an incomplete data set requires a careful statistical analysis to produce significant results. However, this may be because these are the vast majority of all questions in astrophysics. Outside of academic life I enjoy cycling, although growing up in Illinois did not prepare me for riding on California mountains. I also enjoy pub trivia nights, am an avid Cubs fan, and am active in Caltech astronomical public outreach programs.
Tim Morton, Graduate Student
I am a Ph.D. student in astronomy at Caltech, studying extrasolar planets with John Johnson. I’m particularly interested in understanding the diversity of exoplanetary systems, and how to use all available observational data to properly inform our understanding of how planetary systems form and evolve. In addition to my research and teaching, I also am also an active musician and have various other interests.
Sebastian Pineda, Graduate Student
As a graduate student in the Ph.D. astronomy program at Caltech, I work with Professor John Johnson at the intersection of stellar astrophysics and exoplanet science as applied to low-mass stars. I am interested in determining the various properties of low-mass stars as the initial step in characterizing planetary systems. I want to combine observation and theory to advance our understanding of the stars and planetary systems. Outside of research, my interests include sports and strategy boardgames. I am currently working as a representative of the Graduate Student Advocacy Committee and as a member of the Graduate Honor Council. I have an interest in advancing diversity in the scientific community and serve as a mentor to local middle school students.
Juliette Becker, Undergraduate Student
I am an undergraduate astrophysics major. I enjoy orbital dynamics,
observational astrophysics and exoplanets—I can't narrow my interests
down from these broad categories because I am constantly learning about
new fascinating aspects of the field! In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family (parents JC and
Jere, and my little sister Jackie) in Washington state and running. I
currently hold two Caltech athletics school records (XC & 10k) and compete
for both the cross country and track teams.
Monica He, Undergraduate Student
I am a sophomore astrophysics major in love with stars! This summer will be spent at Palomar Observatory, conducting the site testing for MINERVA and exploring the workings of telescopes.
Trevor David, Graduate Student (Astronomy)
I am currently working with Lynne Hillenbrand and post-docs Sasha Hinkley and Justin Crepp on high contrast imaging of sub-stellar mass companions using the Project 1640 instrument at Palomar Observatory. In a related project, I am aiming to improve methods of stellar age estimation for early spectral types. My other research interests include low-resolution spectroscopy as a means of characterizing exoplanet atmospheres, and statistical studies of exoplanet characteristics as a function of host star parameters.
I received my A.B. in Physics and Astronomy from Vassar College in June 2009. Aside from astronomy, my personal interests include modern architecture, travel, and ice hockey.
Alexandra Lockwood, Graduate Student (GPS)
Alex is a near-IR observer studying the formation and evolution of exoplanets. She is currently studying ro-vibrational molecular excitation in protoplanetary disks around T-Tauri stars. She is also involved in a new program to directly detect radial velocity motions of planets using the cross correlation of advanced atmospheric and stellar model with high S/N spectra. In her free time Alex finds herself running and practicing yoga, and trying to bring a smile to people's faces.
Coco Zhang, Graduate Student (Astronomy)
I am a 3rd year graduate student in the astronomy department. I’m interested in the birthplace of extrasolar planets, so called protoplanetary disks. I use multi-wavelength spectra from near-IR to sub-mm to investigate the distribution of various molecules in protoplanetary disks. These distributions are precious information about physical and chemical conditions of protoplanetary disks and will help us eventually understand the formation and evolution processes of extrasolar planets.
Leslie Rogers, Hubble Fellow (Astronomy)
I am a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at Caltech. I am particularly interested in the interior structure, formation and evolution of super-Earth and sub-Neptune exoplanets. I have also dabbled in planet microlensing, interacting binary stars, and meteors.
Jean-Michel Desert, Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow (Astronomy)
Jean-Michel Desert is a Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow at Caltech. He is interested in exoplanet detection and characterization as well as the study of their formation and evolution. His main focus is to study the architecture of planetary systems around nearby stars through the observation of their atmospheres.
Marta Bryan, Graduate Student (Astronomy)
I am a first year graduate student in the Astrophysics Department. My research interests center on the detection and characterization of exoplanets, in particular exploring migration mechanisms that form multi-planet systems so starkly different from our own Solar System. Currently, I am working with John Johnson on the “retired” A star Doppler survey to better understand how high stellar mass affects properties of exoplanet systems such as their orbital architecture and multiplicity. Probing these high stellar mass systems could yield new insights into the formation and evolution of this little known population of exoplanets.