Beatrice Watson Parrent Fellow, Univeristy of Hawai`i at Mānoa -- 2018-present
Trottier Fellow, Université de Montréal -- 2016-2018
PhD in Astronomy, University of California, Berkeley, USA, 2016
M.A. in Astronomy, University of California, Berkeley, USA, 2013
M. Phil in Astronomy, University of Cambridge, UK, 2011
B.A. in Astronomy, Harvard University, USA, 2010
I grew up in Rochester, NY, one of the cloudiest cities in America. Although I knew I wanted to be a writer, I became interested in ground-based astronomy and spent the few clear nights dragging an 8" Dobsonian telescope into my parents' backyard, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Ring Nebula. I learned about Vera Rubin at a summer camp and got the idea that I would solve the mystery of dark matter.
At Harvard, I got a taste for the excitement of research, thanks to courses taught by Doug Finkbeiner and Dave Charbonneau, as well as a summer REU in Nantucket at the Maria Mitchell Observatory under the directorship of Vladimir Strelnitski. I did a project with Doug to search for signatures of dark matter annihilation in the Milky Way. Realizing that my love for telescopes and data outweighed my need to find dark matter, I conducted a senior thesis to follow up Kepler's first exoplanets with ground-based telescopes under the supervision of Dave Charbonneau.
I attended UC Berkeley for graduate school during the Kepler heyday. Under the supervision of Geoff Marcy, I determined one of the first empirical one-to-one mappings between planet mass and radius that extended down to Earth-size planets. As part of this work, we discovered the typical size at which exoplanets transition from having rocky compositions to thick volatile envelopes. I also commissioned the Automated Planet Finder, a telescope on Mt. Hamilton that searches for planets every night without human aid, and I wrote several papers in which I determined the masses, densities, and compositions of planets in Kepler's multiplanet systems. My graduate research was funded by the National Science Foundation and by Mr. and Mrs. Ken and Gloria Levy (pictured above).
I spent two years as the Trottier Fellow at the Institute for Research on Exoplanets at the Université de Montréal. While there, I discovered that exoplanets within a given multi-planet system tend to be the same size as their neighbors, and to have regular orbital spacing, which led to the monniker that such systems are "peas in a pod."
I am now the Parrent Fellow at the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa. I am the Principal Investigator of a multi-year joint NASA and UH Keck program to measure precise masses, densities, orbits, and interior compositions in Kepler's multiplanet systems ($3.2 million total value). In the future, I plan to extend this program using new instruments like the Keck Planet Finder, which will enable similar observations for over a hundred multiplanet systems.