Team


Daniel Apai

Daniel Apai

Principal Investigator

Assistant Professor, The University of Arizona

I am an Assistant Professor of Astronomy and Planetary Sciences at The University of Arizona‘s Steward Observatory and Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. My research focuses on the formation and properties of exoplanets and exoplanetary systems. I use some of the largest ground-based telescopes as well as the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes for observational studies exoplanetary systems.

You can find more about my work on my research website and on my blog Distant Earths.

Email: apai@arizona.edu
Phone: +1-520-621-6534

Tom Zega

Tom Zega

Deputy PI

Assistant Professor, The University of Arizona

I am an Assistant Professor in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. My research is focused on the origin of the first solar-system solids, ancient presolar circumstellar dust grains, primitive organic compounds, interplanetary dust particles, and the evolution of asteroidal bodies. I am an experimentalist, and I use ultrahigh-resolution ion- and electron-microscopy techniques, including focused-ion-beam scanning-electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy, to determine the composition and structure of these materials at scales ranging from millimeters down to the atomic. I use such information to determine the chemical and physical evolution of the early solar system and ancient stars.

My group web page is located at http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/PMRG/index.html.

Lucy Ziurys

Lucy Ziurys

Lead, Team One

Professor, The University of Arizona

Lucy Ziurys is a Professor of Chemistry/Biochemistry and Astronomy at the University of Arizona.  Dr. Ziurys has led a successful laboratory spectroscopy effort since 1990. She has measured high-resolution spectra of numerous species that has led to their interstellar detection, including hydride molecules such as SH+. All of these measurements were conducted with spectrometers built exclusively in the Ziurys group, which includes three mm/sub-mm/THz direct absorption spectrometers and one Fourier transform microwave/mm instrument. She has also pioneered the synthesis of exotic free radical species containing refractory elements such as iron and phosphorus, including a technique coupling a DC discharge with a laser ablation source. Ziurys has managed her lab for over 25 years, including the PhD theses of over 20 students. She has also been Director of the Arizona Radio Observatory (ARO) for over 10 years and successfully managed the move and recommissioning of the new ARO 12 m telescope.

Lucy Ziurys’ personal website:http://cbc.arizona.edu/ziurys/ziur-group.html

Ilaria Pascucci

Ilaria Pascucci

Lead, Team Two

Assistant Professor, The University of Arizona

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona. My research interests lay in the field of planet formation and in the origin of life. I use a variety of ground- and space-based facilities to investigate how protoplanetary disks evolve and disperse, when and how planets form, the aftermath of planet formation by characterizing debris disks, and the architecture of fully formed planetary systems. I am particularly interested in understanding how common are planetary systems like our own.

Visit my research webpage to know more about my research.

Fred Ciesla

Fred Ciesla

Lead, Team Three

Associate Professor, The University of Chicago

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of the Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago. My research focuses on understanding how planetary systems form. I apply numerical models to investigate the physical and chemical evolution of planetary materials, ranging from the small dust grains suspended in protoplanetary disks to the many kilometer-scale objects which accrete together to form planets. I compare my models to the observed properties of meteorites and cometary samples in our own solar system and extend the models to understand what kinds of planets exist around other stars.

My personal web page is located at: http://geosci.uchicago.edu/~fciesla/.

Travis Barman

Travis Barman

Co-Investigator

Associate Professor, The University of Arizona

I am an Associate Professor in the Lunar and Planetary Lab, and my research focuses on the atmospheric properties of extrasolar planets.  I work on theoretical atmospheric models as well as observational programs designed to discover and characterize young and old exoplanets.  By studying planets across a broad age range, we will gain a better understanding of planet formation and evolution.

Maitrayee Bose

Maitrayee Bose

Co-Investigator

Assistant Research Professor, Arizona State University

I am an Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. My research is focused on understanding the origin of ‘stardust’ produced in the envelopes of low-mass stars or in supernova explosions, and preserved in carbonaceous meteorites and interplanetary dust particles. I am also keen on understanding the formation and evolution of organics bearing isotopic anomalies argued to be bonafide material from the interstellar medium or formed by processes in the early solar system. I analyze these ancient stardust and interstellar materials isotopically using the Nano-Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer (NanoSIMS).

My personal web page is located at https://maitrayeebosedotcom.wordpress.com/.

Laird Close

Laird Close

Co-Investigator

Professor, The University of Arizona

Dr. Laird Close earned his Ph.D. in Adaptive Optics and astronomy in 1995 from the University of Arizona Astronomy Department where he is now a Professor. Professor Close has been highlighted as an outstanding professor and mentor by UA, and in 2004, he was honored with a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award. Professor Close is the principal scientist of the 6.5-meter diameter Magellan Adaptive Optics extrasolar planet imager (MagAO), located in the high Atacama Desert of Chile. MagAO has been the first system to make diffraction-limited images in the visible on a large telescope. MagAO’s VisAO camera has helped characterize exoplanets in the “visible” (0.6-1.0 microns) part of the electromagnetic spectrum for the first time.

Josh Eisner

Josh Eisner

Co-Investigator

Associate Professor, The University of Arizona

I am an Associate Professor of Astronomy at the University of Arizona. My research focuses on planet formation, with an emphasis on large telescopes and novel observing techniques.

My webpage is at http://www.u.arizona.edu/~jeisner/.

Nicholas Ballering

Nicholas Ballering

Collaborator

Postdoctoral Research Associate, The University of Arizona

I am interested in circumstellar disks and planet formation, with a current focus on protoplanetary disks in the Orion Cluster. I use ALMA to measure disk masses and sizes, revealing their potential for planet formation. I study disk evolution and the impact of the environment on disks by examining trends in disk properties with stellar type and by comparing disks from various star-forming regions. More information can be found on my website: http://www.nickballering.com

Andrea Banzatti

Andrea Banzatti

Collaborator

Postdoctoral Research Associate, The University of Arizona

I am a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. I work on high-resolution spectroscopy of molecular gas emission and on millimeter interferometry of dust emission from planet-forming disk regions. I am now focusing on unveiling the evolution and dispersal of water and CO at disk radii of 0.05-20 au in disks, to provide observables of the evolving chemical budgets during planet formation. I am particularly interested in finding the links between disk compositions to exoplanet compositions (see our recent workshop ).
Find out more about me and my research on my webpage: www.lpl.arizona.edu/~banzatti

Jacob Bernal

Jacob Bernal

Collaborator

Graduate Assistant, The University of Arizona

I am currently a physical chemistry PhD graduate student working in the Ziurys Group. My research interest is the detection of prebiotic molecules in space via rotational spectroscopy, and my prior research includes a spectral survey of Orion-Kl, as well as searching for molecules in Sagittarius B2(N).

Alex Bixel

Alex Bixel

Collaborator

Graduate Student, The University of Arizona

I am a graduate student at Steward Observatory working with Daniel Apai. As part of the ACCESS team (Arizona-CfA-Catolica Exoplanet Spectroscopy Survey), I study the atmospheres of transiting exoplanets through transmission spectroscopy. I am also interested in how life affects the composition of a planet’s atmosphere, with the hopes of determining what we should look for as we begin probing habitable exoplanets for signs of life.

Min Fang

Min Fang

Collaborator

Postdoctoral Research Associate, The University of Arizona

I am a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Arizona in the Steward Observatory and at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. I am interested in circumstellar disk evolution and accretion behavior of young stars. I study how the circumstellar disk evolution depends on local environments and stellar properties. I also investigate the accretion activities of young stars at different evolutionary stages.

Benjamin David Geller

Benjamin David Geller

Collaborator

Graduate Assistant, The University of Arizona

I am a graduate student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Arizona. I am researching the adsorption mechanisms of water and organic molecules onto mineral surfaces, in order to provide quantitative insights into the ability for water and organics to be incorporated within the terrestrial planets during early stages of planetary accretion.

DeWayne Halfen

DeWayne Halfen

Collaborator

Assistant Astronomer, The University of Arizona

DeWayne Halfen has performed laboratory rotational spectroscopic studies of CD, 13CH, AlH, AlD, CrH, CrD, MnH, MnD, and SH+ in the Ziurys group as Co-I on prior NASA Laboratory Astrophysics grants. He has designed, built, and operated several mm/sub-mm/THz spectrometers and a Fourier transform microwave/mm instrument. He has developed new methods of gas-phase production of metals and phosphorus for production of molecular/radical species. As a postdoctoral associate and assistant astronomer in the Ziurys group for the past 9 years, he has helped manage the operations of the Ziurys laboratory, as well as assist with the mentoring of multiple graduate and undergraduate research assistants.

Pierre Haenecour

Pierre Haenecour

Collaborator

Postdoctoral Research Associate, The University of Arizona

I am a postdoctoral research associate working with Prof. Tom Zega in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. My research interests focus on the building blocks and early history of the Solar System history, and the origin of life. I use in situ ion- and electron-microscopy techniques (e.g., secondary ion mass spectrometry, focused-ion-beam scanning-electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy) to study the composition and origin of circumstellar grains and organic compounds in primitive extraterrestrial materials, such as meteorites, micrometeorites and interplanetary dust particles.

Philip Hinz

Philip Hinz

Co-Investigator

Associate Professor, The University of Arizona

Dr. Phil Hinz is an Associate Professor of Astronomy at Steward Observatory. He received his astronomy PhD in 2001, specializing in a new technique (nulling interferometry) for directly imaging extra-solar planets in the infrared. Phil is the Principal Investigator of the University’s Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer (LBTI) and directs the Center for Astronomical Adaptive Optics (CAAO). His main interests are instrumentation, Extrasolar planets and Astrobiology.

Andres Jordan

Andres Jordan

Co-Investigator

Associate Professor, Pontifícia Universidad Católica, Chile

Andres Jordan is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Astrophysics of the Pontifícia Universidad Católica in Chile. His main area of current research is the discovery and characterization of exoplanets. He participates in the HATSouth survey, a global network of automated wide-field telescopes dedicated to discovering transiting exoplanets, and is the PUC principal investigator of ACCESS, the Arizona-CfA-Católica Exoplanet Spectroscopy Survey, which will provide the first homogeneous database of ground-based exoplanetary transmission spectra in the optical using the IMACS instrument in Chile.

Jinyoung Serena Kim

Jinyoung Serena Kim

Co-Investigator

Associate Astronomer, The University of Arizona

I am an associate astronomer at Steward Observatory, the University of Arizona. My research focuses on star and planet formation and circumstellar disk evolution. I am particularly interested in environmental effects on star and planet formation, such as in high mass star forming regions, where external photoevaporation may play an important role on disk evolution and planet formation. I use both ground based and space telescopes for observations.

My webpage is located at http://globule.as.arizona.edu/~serena/.

Sebastiaan Krijt

Sebastiaan Krijt

Collaborator

Postdoctoral Research Associate, The University of Chicago

I am a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Department of Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago. I study the early stages of planet formation, where microscopic dust particles coagulate to form planetesimal-size bodies. I develop numerical models to simulate the dynamical and collisional behavior of dust grains, and am particularly interested in connecting the dust evolution to the distribution of volatiles in the protoplanetary disk.

Mercedes López-Morales

Mercedes López-Morales

Collaborator

Astrophysicist, The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Mercedes López-Morales is an Astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). She is an expert on exoplanet atmospheres studies and the CfA Principal Investigator of ACCESS, the Arizona-CfA-Catolica Exoplanet Spectroscopy Survey. As part of ACCESS, she is currently working on the generation of the first homogeneous database of exoplanetary transmission spectra in the optical with the IMACS instrument on one of the Magellan telescopes in Chile. In addition, she is working on the development of new observational techniques for the detection and characterization of the atmospheres of Earth-like planets to be discovered by the upcoming NASA TESS mission.

Mikayla Mace

Mikayla Mace

Science Writer

Mikayla Mace is a graduate student in Journalism and Project EOS’s science writer. Look for Makayla’s posts on the EOS Blog.

Renu Malhotra

Renu Malhotra

Co-Investigator

Regents Professor, The University of Arizona

I am a Professor of Planetary Sciences and the director of the Theoretical Astrophysics Program at the University of Arizona. My research is in celestial mechanics, including the architecture of extra-solar planetary systems, debris disks around stars, the Kuiper belt and asteroid belt, orbital resonances, and meteoritic bombardment on planets in the solar system.

My webpage is at http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/~renu/.

Dante Minniti

Dante Minniti

Co-Investigator

Professor, Andrés Bello National University, Chile

I am a Full Professor in the Faculty of Exact Sciences at Universidad Andres Bello in Chile, and and Adjunct Scholar at the Vatican Observatory, Italy. As an Astrophysicist my broad research interests are: Extrasolar Planets, Astrobiology, Globular Clusters, Stellar Populations, Stellar Evolution, Gravitational Microlensing, Galaxy Formation, and Galactic Structure. I use the world’s best telescopes in order to search and characterize extrasolar planets using a variety of photometric and spectroscopic techniques (radial velocities, transits, microlensing). As Principal Investigator of the VVV Survey (www.vvvsurvey.org), I am particularly interested in finding and studying exoEarths that lie within the habitable zone of low mass stars.

 

Gijs Mulders

Gijs Mulders

Collaborator

Postdoctoral Research Associate, The University of Arizona

I am a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. I’m interested in the formation history of terrestrial planets around other stars. I study the statistical properties of extrasolar planetary systems around stars of different masses, and combine these results with numerical simulations to better understand their origins and habitability.

Find out more about my research here (www.lpl.arizona.edu/~mulders)

Krishna Muralidharan

Krishna Muralidharan

Co-Investigator

Assistant Professor, The University of Arizona

I am an Assistant Professor in the department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Arizona.

My research focuses on developing robust multiscale computational paradigms to model the structure-property relations of minerals in order to develop a fundamental understanding of the origins of water and organic materials in our Solar System.

My personal web page is located at http://www.u.arizona.edu/~krishna/.

Joan Najita

Joan Najita

Collaborator

Astronomer, The National Optical Astronomy Observatories

Joan Najita is an Astronomer at the National Optical Astronomy Observatories. Her main research interests are in star formation and the formation and evolution of planetary systems. She has extensive experience studying the gaseous component of circumstellar disks. These studies are aimed at understanding the physical mechanisms that govern star formation and how the evolution of the gaseous component of disks impacts the resulting planetary system architectures. Joan received her Ph.D in astronomy from UC Berkeley in 1993. She received a CfA postdoctoral fellowship and was an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute before joining the scientific staff at NOAO in 1998. She is also a recipient of the Annie Jump Cannon Award in Astronomy.

David O’Brien

David O’Brien

Collaborator

Senior Research Scientist, The Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona

I am a senior research scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, AZ. My research focuses on the formation of terrestrial planets in our Solar System and around other stars, especially with regards to the delivery of water and other biologically-important materials. I also study the dynamics and evolution of small bodies in the Solar System, and I am working with the Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres as a science team associate.

My personal web page is located at http://www.psi.edu/~obrien/.

Sandra Pizzarello

Sandra Pizzarello

Co-Investigator

Emeritus Professor and Research Professor, Arizona State University

I am Emeritus Professor and Research Professor in the Chemistry Department of Arizona State University. My research has focused on characterizing the soluble and insoluble organic materials of carbonaceous chondrite meteorites with the aim to trace their abiotic origins in Solar and/or pre-Solar extraterrestrial environments.

Benjamin Rackham

Benjamin Rackham

Collaborator

Graduate Research Fellow, The University of Arizona

I am a NSF Graduate Research Fellow in the University of Arizona’s Department of Astronomy. My research focuses on characterizing the atmospheres of transiting exoplanets as part of ACCESS: the Arizona-CfA-Católica Exoplanet Spectroscopy Survey. Using the Magellan Telescopes in Chile, the ACCESS team is conducting the largest ground-based transmission spectroscopy survey of exoplanets to date, with the goal of compiling a comparative library of exoplanet transmission spectra from hot Jupiters, through hot Neptunes to super-Earths.

George Rieke

George Rieke

Co-Investigator

Regents’ Professor, The University of Arizona

Professor George Rieke led the development of the MIPS instrument for Spitzer and now leads the science team of the Mid-Infrared Instrument for JWST. His current science is focused on the capabilities of these instruments. The MIPS instrument team has documented the incidence, properties, and evolution of planetary debris disks around nearby stars. Debris disks are perhaps the best way to study planetary system evolution after a system emerges from its protoplanetary disk. Rieke’s research team recently discovered that many extreme young debris disks are variable on yearly, or even monthly, timescales. He has done research on a number of other topics besides debris disks. Rieke’s plans for JWST investigations include imaging nearby debris disks deeply enough to detect young ice giant planets to understand how they sculpt debris disks, and obtaining multiple epoch infrared spectra of variable disks.

Colette Salyk

Colette Salyk

Collaborator

Assistant Professor, Vassar College

Dr. Colette Salyk received a BS in Planetary Sciences from MIT in 2003 and a PhD in Planetary Sciences from the California Institute of Technology in 2009.  From 2009-2011 she was the Harlan J. Smith Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin, and from 2011-2015 the Leo Goldberg Postdoctoral Fellow at NOAO.  She is now an Assistant Professor of Astronomy at Vassar College.  Dr. Salyk’s primary expertise is the observational study of chemical and physical processes occurring in protoplanetary disks, and their connections to planet formation.  She has extensive ground- and space-based observational experience related to the detection and characterization of molecules in planet-forming regions.

Kate Su

Kate Su

Collaborator

Associate Astronomer, The University of Arizona

I am an associate astronomer at Steward Observatory, in University of Arizona. My research broadly focuses on dust around all different kinds of stars (especially in a disk form); and lately only on debris disks using data from space facilities like Spitzer and Herschel.

katherine.as.arizona.edu

 

 

Kevin Wagner

Kevin Wagner

Collaborator

Graduate Research Fellow, The University of Arizona

Kevin is a NSF graduate research fellow at Steward Observatory working with Daniel Apai. Kevin’s research focuses on adaptive optics imaging of extrasolar planets and disks to provide constraints on planetary evolution models. In particular, his current and past research has heavily focused on planet-disk interactions, and how readily observable structures in directly imaged disks can point to prospective places to search for the observationally more challenging target of forming planets.

Peter Williams

Peter Williams

Co-Investigator

Professor, Arizona State University

I am a Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Arizona State University. My expertise is in microanalysis of involatile materials, both “hard” (minerals, semiconductors, metals) and “soft” (biomaterials) using secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS). The ASU SIMS facilities include two Cameca instruments, one of which (NanoSIMS 50L) will be used in the NASA work. This instrument can obtain SIMS images with < 50 nm spatial resolution. The Williams lab also has an imaging time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometer used for novel bioimaging applications.

Neville Woolf

Neville Woolf

Co-Investigator

Emeritus Professor, The University of Arizona

Neville (Nick) Woolf was trained in physics, optics and astronomy. He was a postdoc at Radcliffe Observatory. After, at Lick Observatory, he began exploration of what happened to the matter of dying stars that became a major theme of his work. At Princeton, he made balloon observations of cool stars in the infrared, which showed their huge water absorption bands. He was briefly at NASA Institute for Space Studies where he initiated a balloon program to make far infrared sky surveys. With this Hoffmann discovered the far infrared radiation from the galactic center. He was also briefly an associate professor at the University of Texas, Austin. Then he moved to the University of Minnesota, as director of the observatories, where he participated in the discovery of silicates in circumstellar emission, interstellar absorption and in cometary emission, and other dust emission from planetary nebulae.

He moved to the University of Arizona in 1974. Shortly after this, Preston Cloud introduced him to the concept of Earth oxygenation by microbes. He was one of 14 participants at the first extrasolar planetary detection workshop in 1976. He worked alongside Roger Angel in concept design for giant telescopes and initiated Mt. Graham as an observatory site. With Roger Angel in 1985 he proposed the first concept for detection and study of extrasolar terrestrial planets, to determine the presence or absence of spectroscopic biomarkers. Further conceptual designs for TPF followed in 1990 and 1995. He participated in the first Pale Blue Dot workshop in 1996 and was a co-author of the Terrestrial Planetfinder book. He led a University of Arizona team for the NASA Astrobiology Institute from 2003-2008. He initiated the studies of Earth’s spectrum from lunar earthshine, 2002 and 2006, showing that presence of molecules, plant reflection beyond the photoejection edge, and the Rayleigh scattering of the atmosphere could all be observed. He has continued the work on the flow of molecules from old stars to the interstellar medium into new planetary systems by helping the Ziurys radio astronomy group. He is currently working on the origin of life, and understanding issues of remote life detection.

Jeanne E Davenport

Jeanne E Davenport

Program Coordinator

I am a Program Coordinator at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory. I provide administrative support to Daniel Apai and the EOS team. I have been with the University of Arizona since 1996, am a UA alumni and a Tucson native.

davenpoj@email.arizona.edu
(520) 621-0529