The Russell B. Makidon Optics Laboratory Current Team Members

Makidon Lab team
The Makidon team currently consists of about a dozen STScI staff, JHU undergrads (24 to date), and several active external collaborators. The team totals over 25 people. 

Our group at Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) is dedicated to developing cutting-edge high-contrast imaging solutions for future observatories, while fostering a learning environment for the future generations of technologists and scientists. Our group typically has a balanced mix of undergraduate interns, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and permanent staff. We believe that diversity of knowledge and expertise with collaborations beyond astronomy (e.g. physics, engineering, computer sciences, optics) is key to the advancement of our projects. We recognize that in order to have a robust scientific environment, we also need diversity in experience, background, and identity. We find that working towards having a more diverse lab improves the environment and work quality, and also aligns with the goals of STScI and the astronomical community at large.

Remi Soummer

Rémi Soummer

Director of the Optics Lab, Principal Investigator of HiCAT

My research is focused on the development of technologies in support of high-contrast imaging and characterization of extra-solar planets, including new coronagraph designs, image processing algorithms, or wavefront sensing and control. I have contributed to the design and construction of ground-based coronagraphic instruments such as the Gemini Planet Imager or Palomar Project 1640. I worked on preparing operations for the the James Webb Space Telescope optical alignment and coronagraphy for almost a decade, and since 2017 I have dedicated myself full time to the Makidon Optics Laboratory.

Preferred Pronouns: He/Him/His

GitHub: RemiSoummer

Linkedin: Rémi Soummer

Iva Laginja

Iva Laginja

Graduate Student, HiCAT, JOST

Originally born in Croatia and grown up in Austria, I completed my Master’s degree in Astronomy and Instrumentation at Leiden University in the Netherlands. In the fall of 2017, I started working as a Research and Instrument Analyst at the Russell B. Makidon Lab at STScI. I started off on the JWST Optical Simulation Testbed (JOST), a three-lens anastigmat including an IrisAO segmented deformable mirror (DM) on which we use for Wavefront Sensing and Control (WFS&C) solutions on segmented apertures like the JWST, exploring a wide field of view. Over time, I shifted my work more and more on the lab’s workhorse testbed HiCAT, investigating high contrast imaging solutions for segmented telescopes with an Apodized Pupil Lyot Coronagraph (APLC) and system-level performance analyses. I also work on a study about ultra-stable telescopes, implementing the PASTIS contrast prediction model on the LUVOIR-A APLC designs. I write a lot of scientific software in Python and push for good practices in software citation and publishing.

GitHub: ivalaginja

Full Bio

Scott Will

Scott Will

Graduate Student, HiCAT

I am a PhD student from the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester, working jointly with Professor James Fienup and the Makidon Optics Lab team, where I work to develop and implement wavefront sensing and control techniques for the HiCAT testbed.  I received a BS in electrical engineering from the University at Buffalo in 2015.  More broadly, I’m interested in wavefront sensing, astronomical instrumentation, and computational imaging.

Github: sdwill

Théo Jolivet

Visiting Graduate Student, Wavefront Control Algorithms

I am a visiting student from ENS Paris-Saclay in France. I am interested in the theory and implementation of machine learning algorithms and am currently working on a predictive algorithm for time series forecasting. My activities at STScI are to bring new statistical methods for Wavefront Sensing & Control.

Yinzi Xin

Visiting Graduate Student, Image Processing Algorithms

I am a visiting graduate student from Professor Kerri Cahoy’s group at MIT and am working on an instrument-guided post-processing method for coronagraphic instruments at STScI. I am also generally interested in high contrast astronomical instrumentation, optical physics, and figuring out how to measure interesting things.

James Noss

Lead Software Engineer

I am a Senior Software Engineer at Space Telescope Science Institute and the lead Software Engineer for the Russell B. Makidon Optics Laboratory. I am responsible for overseeing all software demands for the lab, which predominantly involves Python code to run our various experiments communicating with testbed hardware. Prior to this, I worked in both the Science Calibration Software Branch and the Data Analysis Software Branch working on the Hubble Space Telescope Calibration Pipeline and the Astropy project. Prior to even that, I was a C++ developer and Jr. Systems Architect for HPCC-Systems at LexisNexis Risk solutions. I have PhD experience in Theoretical and Numerical Cosmology and a Masters degree in Physics and Chaos theory.

Github: jamienoss

Linkedin: James Noss

Julia Fowler

Julia Fowler

Science Software Engineer

I am a science software engineer for the Makidon Lab at the Space Telescope Science Institute. My work includes writing software that controls hardware on our experiments for the metrology table (our test-testbed) as well as HiCAT (our workhorse testbed). For the STUF (our rogue UV testbed), I work closely with the JHU Instrument Development Group while we integrate the initial hardware and software elements. I am the PI of GLARE, the Generalized Lab Architecture for Restructured optical Experiments, a DDRF/DSII proposal to revamp and rebuild software in our lab into a generalizable software suite that other experiments and other teams can share. Outside of the lab, I moonlight as a transiting exoplanet astronomer with the Exoplanet Characterization Tool Kit and teach Git and Python to my colleagues at STScI.

Preferred Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs

Github: julesfowler

Full Bio

Bryony Nickson

APLC Optimization

Originally from the United Kingdom, I received a Masters degree in Physics and Astrophysics from the University of Exeter. My time at STScI began in 2015 as a summer intern, until I was officially hired as a Research & Instrument Analyst in the fall of 2016. Since then, I have been working as a high-contrast imaging expert on the JWST Mid-Infrared Instrument team. I joined the Makidon Optics lab in the spring of 2020, where my work is focused on the optimization and analysis of coronagraph designs for the NASA’s ExEP-led Segmented Coronagraph Design and Analysis (SCDA) study. 

Preferred pronouns: She/Her/Hers.

Greg Brady

Greg Brady

Optical Design, Wavefront Sensing, Electronics

I am a principal astronomical optics engineer in the Telescopes group and in the Makidon Optics Laboratory at STScI.  My research interests include, broadly, wavefront sensing and control and, more specifically, phase retrieval algorithms.  I am generally interested in optical engineering, design, analysis, and measurement.  Before coming to STScI, I worked as an optical engineer with multiple startups, Apple, KLA-Tencor and Sandia National Laboratories, designing optical systems, lenses, and diffractive optics for diverse applications including cell phone cameras, 3D imaging, optical computing, quantum computing and semiconductor metrology.  For example, I worked on the dual cameras in the iPhone 7 plus and on the FaceID module in iPhone X series of phones.  I earned my PhD from the Institute of Optics of the University of Rochester.

Github: grbrady

Kiera Brooks

Keira Brooks

Wavefront Sensing and Control

I am an Astronomical Optics Scientist in the Telescopes branch in the Instruments division at STScI. I previously was involved in testing the optical performance of the JWST primary mirror, and now support the JWST Wavefront Sensing and Control Team by making sure that we can guide during the commissioning of the telescope. In the Makidon Optics Lab, I have previously worked on the HiCAT testbed — developing experimental software and calibration tools.

Preferred Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Github: kjbrooks

Peter Petrone

Peter Petrone

Opto-mechanical and Metrology

I have provided support to a range of flight and research activities at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) since 1996. I supported metrology efforts on JWST, HST, AXAF/Chandra LRO and worked in the development and testing of hardware designed to advance the performance of the Visible Nulling Coronagraph (VNC) at GSFC.  I have supported the VNC for over 13-years and was involved in all three phases of the instrument's development.  I currently am supporting the High-Contrast Imager for Complex Aperture Telescopes (HiCAT) at The Space Telescope Science Institute providing optical metrology support to the HiCAT testbed. 

Prior to this work, I contributed to the development of numerous metrology stations that were used to characterize the HST Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) filter set.  I was also involved in the fabrication, alignment and research activities associated with the James Web Space Telescope Wavefront Sensing and Control Testbed at GSFC. This testbed was instrumental in the early development of control algorithms later used for the coarse alignment and fine phasing of the JWST primary mirror segments.

Matthew Maclay

Software Development, Calibration, and Data Analyst

I grew up in Wisconsin, and received my BA in Physics & Astronomy from Carleton College in Minnesota. I moved to Baltimore in the summer of 2018, and have been working at STScI to support the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) on the Hubble Space Telescope. I joined the lab in spring 2020, and have worked on projects including the flux normalization of our light source assembly and the gain calibration of our deformable mirrors. My interests include Earth & Planetary science, ultimate frisbee, and learning how to make bread.

preferred pronouns: He/Him/His

Github: mmaclay

Linkedin: matthew-maclay

Jaret Prothro

Mechanical Engineer

I am an engineering intern in the Makidon Optics Lab at the Space Telescope Science Institute. My work mainly consists of mechanics focused hardware tasks for HiCAT and updating CAD models. I am a rising senior at Johns Hopkins University studying mechanical engineering with a concentration in biomechanics.

Marshall Perrin

Marshall Perrin

Deputy Principal Investigator of HiCAT

I develop and employ advanced instrumentation for imaging planets and disks around other stars, in particular making extensive use of infrared integral field spectroscopy and imaging polarimetry. I have been a part of the Gemini Planet Imager team since the project's inception over a decade ago, and these days I co-lead GPI's Data Analysis & Data Pipeline team. I carry out observations of nearby circumstellar disks using HST, GPI, and other facilities, and collaborate in the development of our lab testbeds for high contrast and wavefront control.

GitHub: mperrin

Full Bio

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Tom Comeau

Project Management

I am a project manager, systems engineer, and software developer working primarily on JWST Optical Telescope Element commissioning and wavefront error trending.  I started working on the JWST Wavefront Sensing and Control team in 2007, and have worked on several of the software components.  I do HiCAT project management for the lab, and a little software work. 

Github: tcomeau

Laurent Pueyo

Coronagraphy, Wavefront sensing and Control

High contrast imaging of nearby stars opens new avenues to map regions of the planetary formation phase-space yet unexplored with indirect methods. This technique is also the most promising to search for biomarkers in the atmosphere of earth-like planets in order to eventually address the fascinating question: “Are we alone?” Such observations are however quite challenging: they rely on detecting sources fainter than their host stars by factors ranging from 105 − 107 for young gas giants, to 1010 for earth analogs. I investigate a broad range of problems aimed at facilitating and carrying out direct imaging exo-planetary science. More specifically, I am currently working on: 

  • High-contrast imaging instrumentation to prepare the ELT/post-JWST era, with long term goals aimed at capturing in-situ planetary formation phenomena and probing for biomarkers in the atmosphere of earth analogs.
  • Direct imaging surveys with today’s state of the art facilities, aimed at revealing a broader range of planetary systems, unveiling their formation history and exploring their atmospheric compositions. 

GitHub: lpueyo

Full Bio

Anand Sivaramakrishnan

Anand Sivaramakrishnan

Coronagraphy, Wavefront Sensing and Control

I played a pioneering role in developing extreme adaptive optics coronagraphy and was involved in the first three such instruments: The Lyot Project on USAF's AEOS telescope, Project 1640 on Palomar's 200-inch, and the Gemini Planet Imager. I lead high resolution interferometric methods for the James Webb Space Telescope by placing a non-redundant aperture mask in JSWT-NIRISS. I develop instrumentation to address problems of imaging planets around other stars, the environs of supermassive black holes at the centers of Active Galactic Nuclei. I also co-teach a JHU graduate course in Fourier Optics.

Github: anand0xff

Mario Gennaro

Principal Investigator of STUF

I am a support scientist in the STScI instruments division. My research interests span star formation, stellar evolution, stellar clusters and resolved stellar populations in the Milky Way and its satellite galaxies. I am involved in the development of astronomical instrumentation, with strong focus on multi-object spectroscopy using digital micromirror devices (DMDs) as slit-selection mechanism. I am the PI of “the STUF” — a project funded by the STScI Director and hosted in the Makidon Lab. The STUF aims at characterizing the optical properties of DMDs in the ultraviolet, with the goal of advancing this technology to the point where it will be usable in space.

Github: mgennaro

Rob Gontrum

IT Technologist

I arrived at the Space Telescope Science Institute in 2008, bringing a deep and varied computer science background. My work as an IT Technologist involves supporting the Russell B. Makidon Optics Laboratory among other endeavors.  I greatly enjoy applying special care and consideration the varied opportunities my role provides.

Sam Weinstock

Sam Weinstock

Systems Administrator

I am a Systems Administrator with the Space Telescope Science Institute, supporting desktop hardware and software for Mac, Windows and Linux operating systems. I support the Russell B. Makidon Optics Lab including the HiCAT and JOST systems, and other IT infrastructure within the Lab. The Optics Lab is an incredibly unique environment which provides an exciting and challenging element to the IT environment I truly enjoy supporting.

Ana Valenzuela

Ana Maria Valenzuela

Lab Administrator

I am currently a Lead Administrative Assistant for Instruments Division and have been at STScI for ten years.  I have been the administrative support for Rémi Soummer and the Russell B. Makidon Optics Lab since 2017.

Nathan Scott

Mechanical Engineering Senior Design Professor

I was born in the USA but grew up in Australia. I got both my bachelors in mechanical engineering (1987) and PhD (1996) in engineering education from the University of Western Australia. I worked in Japan for three years designing and building systems to measure human motion, specifically the motion of a ski athlete skiing down a real mountain. After that, I worked briefly at a design consultancy in Western Australia (GENG Inc.). My main professional experience has been as a teaching-oriented academic at universities. I have taught many courses in engineering mechanics, materials and design. I have been at JHU since 2011 and have led the Masters in Engineering (ME) Senior Design course. In the summers, I go to industries seeking suitable projects and spend the rest of the year teaching and leading a small team of students through a design, build, test, fail, redesign, rebuild, document sequence. My ME Senior Design teams have built several useful things for the Makidon Lab including several iterations of the HiCAT table cover and a feedback control system for target acquisition.

Full Bio

Active Collaborators

  • Marc Ferrari (All): working on optical design and mirror topics. 
  • Kevin Fogarty (SCDA, HiCAT): working on apodizer designs. 
  • John Hagopian (HiCAT): working on carbon nanotubes and apodizer manufacturing. 
  • Emmanuel Hugot (All): working with mirror manufacturing and segmented mirror simulator. 
  • Lucie Leboulleux (HiCAT): working on PASTIS and COFFEE. 
  • Johan Mazoyer (HiCAT, JOST): working on wavefront control code prototype.
  • Laurent Mugnier (HiCAT): control theory and inverse problems.  
  • Mamadou N'Diaye (HiCAT, JOST): working on APLC theory and optimization, SCDA, Zernike LOWFS. Also worked on the initial HiCAT testbed installation. 
  • Roser Juanola Parramon (HiCAT): working on stroke minimization, Pairwise probe estimation, and modeling. 
  • Leonid Pogorelyuk (HiCAT): working on WFSC and implementing EKF dither probing on HiCAT simulator. 
  • Emiel Por (HiCAT, SCDA): working on apodizer optimization and wave front control implementation. 
  • Raphaël Pourcelot (HiCAT): working on zernike wavefront sensor. 
  • Susan Redmond (HiCAT): working on image plane geometric calibrations.
  • Johannes Sahlmann (HiCAT): working on image plane geometric calibration. 
  • Jean-François Sauvage (HiCAT): implementing COFFEE on HiCAT. 
  • Nathan Scott (HiCAT): working as JHU Mechanical Engineering Senior Design Team- Faculty with several design contributions (DM and apodizer mounts). 
  • Ron Shiri (HiCAT): working with carbon nanotubes and black silicon coordination, silicon strubstrate, and black silicon apodizer fabrication. 
  • Hari Subedi (HiCAT): working on developing code to convert apodizer maps into GDS format for lithograpy. Also makes all the GDS masks for the lab. 
  • Sébastien Vievard (JOST): working on ELASTIC algorithms. 
  • Neil Zimmerman (HiCAT): working on SCDA and apodizer optimizations. 

Past Team Members and Collaborators

  • Thomas Tiberghien Alvarez (HiCAT): worked with the 2019 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team-M on the segmented mirror telescope. 
  • Soraya Bailey (HiCAT): JHU Mechanical Engineering Senior Design Team- former faculty. 
  • Lucas Batista (BabyCAT): worked on developing educational outreach program. 
  • Aurélie Bonnefois (JOST): worked on LAPD code. 
  • Arturo Brito (HiCAT): worked on general Opto-Mechanical support, CAD work, manufacturing, machine shop contruction.
  • Nicole Cade-Ferreira (HiCAT): worked with the 2014 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team on the first enclosure of the optics lab. 
  • Matthieu Le Cauchois (HiCAT): worked with the 2018 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team-E on the enclosure. 
  • Kevin Chang (HiCAT): worked with the 2018 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team on Opto-Mechanical projects. 
  • Elodie Choquet (HiCAT, JOST): worked on optical design for JOST and HiCAT.  
  • Andrew Colombo (HiCAT): worked with the 2018 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team-E on the enclosure. 
  • Daniel Dembner (HiCAT): worked with the 2017 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team on the apodizer and tip/tilt.  
  • Thomas Dillon (HiCAT): worked on tests of black silicon apodizer. 
  • Cora Dimmig (HiCAT): worked with the 2017 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team on the apodizer and tip/tilt.  
  • Alexander Doran (HiCAT): worked with the 2019 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team-C on the Tip-Tilt control.
  • Sylvain Egron (JOST): worked on optical alignment, JOST infrastructure (linear control, LAPD). 
  • Andrew Frazier (HiCAT): worked with the 2014 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team on the first enclosure of the optics lab. 
  • Kelsey Glazer (SCDA): worked on developing the new lab website and coronagraph optimizations. 
  • Abhinav Goyal (HiCAT): worked with the 2018 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team on Opto-Mechanical projects. 
  • Miranda Grenville (HiCAT): worked with the 2019 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team-M on the segmented mirror telescope. 
  • Angela Groszos (HiCAT): worked with the 2020 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team to design and build a lab-scale segmented primary telescope mirror. 
  • Mariah Harris (HiCAT): worked with the 2020 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team to develop a lab-scale segmented telescope mirror. 
  • Andrew Holliday (HiCAT): worked with the 2018 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team-E on the enclosure. 
  • Matthew Jorgensen (HiCAT): worked with the 2014 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team on the first enclosure of the optics lab. 
  • Maggie Kautz (HiCAT, BabyCAT): worked on HiCAT optics, BabyCAT alignment, and Opto-Mechanical Support. 
  • Tucker Kearney (HiCAT): worked with the 2014 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team on the first enclosure of the optics lab. 
  • Charles-Philippe Lajoie (HiCAT, JOST): worked on IRIS-AO control code (C++) and initial JOST alignment. 
  • Nicholas Lamaison (HiCAT): worked with the 2019 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team-M on the segmented mirror telescope. 
  • Oliver Levecq (JOST):  worked on JOST optical design and Opto-Mechanical support. 
  • Joseph Long (JOST): worked on WebbPSF and made comparisons for JOST. 
  • Evelyn McChesney (HiCAT): worked on the design and manufacturing of mechanical mounts for optical components of HiCAT.
  • Blaine Miller (HiCAT): worked with the 2017 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team on the apodizer and tip/tilt.  
  • Christopher Moriarty (HiCAT): worked as a software engineer and designed the HiCAT software architecture
  • Heather Olszewski (HiCAT): worked on general opto-mechanical support and optical test bed alignment. 
  • Scott Pourshlchi (HiCAT): worked with the 2019 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team-C on the Tip-Tilt control.
  • Kathryn St.Laurent (SCDA, HiCAT): worked on SCDA and apodizer designs. 
  • Sumita Rajpurohit (HiCAT): worked with the 2019 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team-M on the segmented mirror telescope.
  • Lucy Reider (HiCAT): worked with the 2019 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team-C on the Tip-Tilt control.
  • Courtney Schmitt (HiCAT): worked with the 2018 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team-E on the enclosure. 
  • Lindsey Wiser (HiCAT): worked with the 2020 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team to design and prototype a segmented actuated mirror
  • Ji Woong Kim (HiCAT): worked with the 2018 JHU Mechanical Senior Design Team on Opto-Mechanical projects. 
  • Rebecca Zhang (HiCAT/LOWFS): worked on ZWFS, coronagraphy.

For more information about the Russell B. Makidon Optics Laboratory, please contact .