About

I'm a fifth-year graduate student in the Department of Astronomy at Boston University. I’m interested in planetary science, especially the upper atmospheres and ionospheres of terrestrial planets and the way they are affected by changes on our Sun. I was the first ever American Astronomical Society Media Fellow and I was a 2019 AAAS Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellow at Voice of America in Washington, D.C.

Before beginning graduate school in Fall 2015, I lived in Taiwan for a year as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. If you’d like to learn more about my experience in Taiwan as a Fulbright grantee, you can visit my blog, which covers the first three months of my fellowship. Between graduating from college and moving to Taiwan, I worked as a Planetary Science Research Intern at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. Before that, I studied at Williams College, graduating in 2014 with a B.A. in Astrophysics and Chinese.

Aside from coding and writing, you can find me hiking, rock climbing, reading, or doing crossword puzzles.

Research

At Boston University, I work with Dr. Paul Withers to study the atmospheres of terrestrial planets. My current research focuses on a layer of charged particles in the upper atmosphere of Venus called the ionosphere. In particular, I want to understand how solar activity — solar flares, the 11-year solar cycle, etc. — affects the density, extent, and composition of the ionosphere of Venus. To accomplish this, I use in situ data from the Pioneer Venus Orbiter (PVO), in particular the Orbiter Electron Temperature Probe and the Orbiter Retarding Potential Analyzer, which measured the electron and ion densities throughout the ionosphere between 1978 and 1992. I also use remote sensing data in the form of radio occultations from the Venera and Venus Express spacecraft.

As a planetary science research intern at JPL, I worked with Dr. Bonnie Buratti to study the north pole of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. Titan's thick, methane-rich atmosphere makes it challenging to study the moon's surface at visible wavelengths, but it's possible to peek through atmospheric windows in the infrared. At certain wavelengths, we can see that Titan is dotted with lakes and seas filled with liquid hydrocarbons — mostly methane and ethane. Using data from the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer aboard the Cassini spacecraft, I developed a preliminary spectral mapping technique to ascertain the relative abundances of methane and ethane in and around the polar lakes of Titan, focusing on the bright "collar" regions around the lakes that could signal evaporation.

As an undergraduate at Williams College, I worked with Dr. Karen Kwitter to study planetary nebulae (PNe, singular PN), the final life stage for stars of approximately the same mass as the Sun. I analyzed spectra from the 10.4-meter Gran Telescopio Canarias OSIRIS imaging spectrograph and the Hubble Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph and calculated chemical abundances of PNe in the Milky Way and our nearest galactic neighbor, M31. For my senior thesis, I analyzed spectra from eight PNe in M31 to investigate the oxygen abundance gradient, which is anomalously flat in the outer disk of M31. A likely cause is the gravitational influence of a passing galaxy — which kinematic studies suggest occurred between M31 and M33 2-3 billion years ago. You can read more about this work here.

Science Writing

Our Eyes Reveal What We Want to Conceal, Research Finds
Solar Sail Mission Is Declared a Success
Climate Change May Have Contributed to Rise of Deadly Fungus, Study Says
Laughter May Be Best Medicine for Bad Joke
Before Humans Walked on the Moon, Animals Rocketed into Space (Video)

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Planetary History Written in Saturn’s Rings
Launching a Stellar Superflare
Not so Fast: Some Stars Show a Spin-down Slowdown
Heating Up a Solar Flare
Can We Detect Gravitational Waves from Core-Collapse Supernovae?

View >30 More

What Are Starspots Like on Sun-like Stars?
Astrophysical Classics: Evidence for Europa’s Subsurface Ocean
SETI on the Side: Seeking Dyson Spheres with Gaia
Dating the Evaporation of Globular Clusters
Antineutrinos, Left-Handed Molecules, and You

View >10 More

The Universe Beyond the Plasma Frequency
Life Beyond Earth? Look to Small Stars

Curriculum Vitae

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Last updated 12/12/2019.

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