I am primarily interested in the chemistry of planetary and pre-planetary systems. I like thinking of
ways to determine what planets are made of, and about what stories those compositions can tell about a
We learn a lot about exoplanets when they transit in front or eclipse behind their host stars.
With Professor Heather Knutson, I am observing transits and eclipses with the Wide-field InfraRed
Camera (WIRC) on the Hale 200" telescope at Palomar Observatory. We are measuring exoplanet
bulk compositions by constraining masses via transit-timing variations, and we are observing
exoplanet atmospheres with transmission and emission spectroscopy.
I am interested in the compositions of Solar System planets as well.
One of the unresolved mysteries of our sister planet Venus is the existence of an unknown species
absorbing UV light in its upper cloud layer (~60 km above the surface). I am leading a
search for a candidate UV absorber in Venus's upper atmosphere with the Atacama Large
Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (ALMA).
Protoplanetary disks are where planets are born, so their compositions
represent the initial conditions for planet formation. For my undergraduate thesis, I used computer
simulations to understand the emergence of chemical complexity (a word which here means "6 or more
atoms") in these systems. Specifically, I studied the formation of methanol and methyl cyanide
with Dr. Catherine Walsh, and we found that the methanol reservoir in the disk TW Hydrae
was very compact relative to expectations.
Stars and disks themselves are born in large regions of gas and dust called molecular clouds.
With Dr. Daniel Wolf Savin, I worked on gas-phase chemistry in these sources.
We studied two key chemical reactions in molecular clouds and showed that
new laboratory constraints on their rates substantially changed the predicted amounts of
key molecules like water and methane.