I am an astronomer who recently joined STScI as a support scientist on the Hubble Space Telescope STIS instrument team, where my main roles are to help maintain the continued health and performance of STIS. I also study red giant stars in search of ones that have devoured their planets. Come explore my pages to learn more about what I do and about the astronomy I find most interesting.
Doomed ExoplanetsThe final stages of stellar evolution spell bad news for the closest planets when their stars swell to become giant stars. Unlike our Sun, many stars have Jupiter and Neptune sized planets orbiting close by. What happens to a star that devours a Jupiter is quite different from what happens to a star that devours a Mercury!
Open Clusters and Large Surveys
Red giant stars can be tricky to study. Low and intermediate mass stars look nearly identical as red giants, yet their histories have been drastically different and their centrail cores will continue to evolve under very different conditions. Studies of giants in clusters or large surveys of field stars (e.g., APOGEE) are needed to understand them.
Chemical Make-upAlthough stars are mostly hydrogen, the relative amounts of all the other elements tell us a lot about the star's history: about its birthplace in the Galaxy, what is going on deep in the stellar interior, and how it may have interacted with companions (both stellar and substellar). Lithium in particular has a lot to say.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to share my love of astronomy with many people. I especially loved my time working with the Dark Skies, Bright Kids program when I was a graduate student at at the University of Virginia. These days, you can find me once a month (usually a Sunday afternoon) at the National Air and Space Museum, in Washington, DC chatting with visitors "about anything in the universe" at one of the Astronomy Chat events. You can check the museum's calendar for the latest schedule.