Studying the birth, life, death, and re-birth of planetary systems

I am a postdoctoral fellow at UC San Diego working in the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences. I hold the positions of NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow and CASS Postdoctoral Fellow.

My research focuses on the birth, life, death, and re-birth of planetary systems with an emphasis on terrestrial (Earth-like) planets. I study the birth of planetary systems through radio-telescope observations of young star systems and the dusty material that orbits them. Using the JVLA radio telescope array in New Mexico, I probe disks around newly formed stars to see what is the largest size solids have grown to and what the spatial distribution of this material is. I study the early evolution of terrestrial planets by identifying star systems with evidence for recent catastrophic collisions between rocky objects in their terrestrial planet zone. Studying such systems provides clues as to how common Earth-like planets are in our Galaxy and what the important epochs are for their formation. I also research the death of rocky objects through observations of white dwarf stars, the evolutionary stage our Sun (and most stars) will end with. By studying white dwarfs we can learn about how planetary systems disintegrate after their host star dies, what are the composition of rocky objects outside of our Solar System, and how these compositions compare with rocky objects that orbit the Sun. Last, but certainly not least, I study the rebirth of planetary systems around a peculiar class of first-ascent giant stars identified through my thesis research. I dub this new class of stars 'Phoenix Giants' as these old stars resemble in many ways youthful, planet forming star systems.

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