Who I am and what I do
I lead a team of 35 scientists from many different fields who must all work together
to develop a computer model of the types of planets that are most likely to
harbor life. A lot of my work is administration, management andmentoring,
so I “enable” more science
than I get to do myself, but I still do get to do some science! That’s
50% of my job; the other 50% is as the Solar System Observations scientist
for the Spitzer Space telescope, where I serve as the liaison between the
planetary science community and the Spitzer mission.
Areas of expertise
- Remote-sensing analysis of infrared spectroscopy of planetary atmospheres
- Modeling of extrasolar terrestrial
planet spectra and the nature and detectability
of potential remote-sensing signs of habitability and life.
- Development of self-consistent terrestrial planet models for astrobiology.
How I first became interested in this profession
About seven years ago I got interested in studies of the habitable
zone around Stars, and that interest eventually led to the successful
proposal for the NAI team.
What helped me prepare for this job
A grounding in studying planets from a distance (remote-sensing
My role models or inspirations
For this particular job, I didn’t have any!
Education and Training
I have a background in science, the ability to work with others,
planning, organization, management skills… and lots and lots of
• Ph. D., Astrophysics, University of Sydney, Australia
• B.Sc. (Hons) Physics, Class 1 Honors, University of New South
I lead a NASA Astrobiology Institute Lead Team. Our team, the Virtual
Planetary Laboratory is working to understand more about extrasolar
terrestrial planets around other stars (which haven’t been discovered….yet)
and the early Earth (which is impossible to visit without a time machine),
by creating computer models of terrestrial planets.
My Career Path
•Principal Investigator, NASA Astrobiology Institute
• Solar System Observations Scientist, Spitzer Science Center
• Cognizant Scientist for Uplink, SIRTF Science Center
• Research Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
• National Research Council Resident Research Associate, JPL
• Postdoctoral Scholar, JPL
What I like best about my job
It’s an incredibly exciting research project, to help
with the search for Life beyond the solar system… what could be
more interesting than that?
What I like least about my job
I have to do a lot of work that ISN’T scientifi c research!
My advice to anyone interested in this occupation
I think astrobiology is a very exciting field, but it is quite different to more “traditional” science.
Having a good grounding in one field, but an interest in other science fields,
and being willing to learn how to communicate with scientists in different fields
(both to understand their work, and to have them understand your work) is crucial.
Last Updated: February 15, 2005