I am a planetary geologist, which means that I study the moons, planets, and small bodies in our solar system. I figure out how these objects formed and how they have changed through time.
My research focuses on what happens when objects in our solar system crash into each other. Such collisions, called impacts, sculpt all solid bodies in the solar system. Consequently, impact cratering may be the most pervasive geological process. I approach planetary science research through the lens of terrestrial geology; I originally trained as a terrestrial geologist. I publish my work in peer-reviewed journals and present at international conferences.
Teaching is also key part of my professional identity. I have five years of experience teaching at the pre-college and undergraduate levels. I teach learner-centered courses influenced by the latest research into how students learn. I also use technology as a tool to enhance student learning both in and out of the classroom. In 2014 a colleague and I jointly received the Reginald D. Archambault Award for Teaching Excellence with Distinction from Brown University.
Scroll down to learn more about my recent adventures in research and teaching.
Impactor Contamination of Ceres
Hypervelocity impact experiments, coupled with scaling calculations, predict extensive impactor contamination on Ceres. We explore how the bulk composition of Ceres affects the character of projectile remnants.
Published in Geophysical Research Letters as "Predictions for impactor contamination on Ceres based on hypervelocity impact experiments".
Impactor Debris on Vesta
My coauthors and I show that that Vesta accretes large quantities of meteoritic debris, largely hosted within the glassy melt breccias. The experiments at the core of this work, which were performed at the NASA Ames Vertical Gun Range, provide insight into how dark material is delivered to Vesta and reveal the physical state of the projectile component.
Published in Icarus as "Delivering a Projectile Component to the Vestan Regolith".
Meteoritic Fingerprints in Terrestrial Craters
During impacts on Earth, tiny amounts of the impacting asteroid or comet can be mixed into melted Earth rocks. We can sniff out these tiny "fingerprints" using geochemical tools like osmium isotopes. In collaboration with colleagues at the UT Austin and the University of New Brunswick, we used osmium isotopes to search for meteoritic signatures in impact melt rocks from two Canadian craters: East Clearwater and West Clearwater. The results surprised us!
Presented at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference and Brown University (manuscript in preparation).
Water Delivery During Impacts
We use hypervelocity impact experiments to measure how much water gets delivered by impacts. The answer? Up to half of the impactor's water is trapped in and near the crater under conditions typical of the main asteroid belt. Moreover, we show that this water is trapped in a combination of impact-generated glasses and impact breccias.
A Novel Source for Dust Accelerators
Current dust accelerators can only accelerate electrically-conductive particles. We show that electrospray charges minerals and astrophysical ices without the need for conductive coatings. This opens new avenues for experiments with realistic planetary materials, potentially transforming laboratory studies of cosmic dust.
Published in Planetary and Space Science and Earth, Planets, and Space as "Electrospray charging of minerals and ices for hypervelocity impact research" and "A novel particle source based on electrospray charging for dust accelerators and its significance for cosmic dust studies", respectively.
Multi-Stage Image Charge Detectors
I first encountered image charge detectors while working on my dust accelerator project. By the end of the project, I was quite familiar with these instruments. I collaborated with Brandon Barney and Dr. Daniel Austin on designs for multi-stage image charge detectors made from printed circuit boards. This approach is far easier than trying to machine and align multiple detection cylinders.
Published in Reviews of Scientific Instruments as "A multi-stage image charge detector made from printed circuit boards".
Each summer I teach a week-long course for high school students entitled "Habitable Worlds: Possible Places for Life in the Solar System and Beyond". I designed the course and currently co-teach it with my friend and colleague Stephanie Bouchey. Our award-winning class engages high school students uses problem-based learning as the mechanism for catalyzing student engagement.
As the teaching assistant for an introductory course called "Planetary Geology", I solo taught one week of the class of the semester-long course and developed new homework assignments, in addition to typical TA responsibilities.
Geology in the Real World
In summer 2017 I am teaching a new course called "Geology in the Real World: Intersections Between Geology and Society". The course uses recent events to reveal how geology influences the lives of everyone on Earth. Students also explore how news and social media sites report on earth science issues.
In 2015 Stephanie Bouchey and I reenvisioned and implemented a practicum for TAs in the Brown University Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences. The practicum combined "real world" experiences and mentoring as new TAs practiced leading discussions, evaluated real student work, and interacted with experienced TAs and faculty. I have since facilitated seven TA workshops.
I have completed or am currently completing three of the Sheridan Center's year-long teaching certificates, including Reflective Teaching, the Professional Development Seminar, and the Teaching Consultant program. I serve as a departmental graduate student liaison to the Center and on the Center's Graduate Student Advisory board.
I share the latest in space exploration with the public and help K-12 students achieve science success.
Second Grade Science
I participate in a grad student-led science outreach program at the Vartan Gregorian Elementary School. Once a week we teach hands-on, NGSS-aligned lessons to second grade students. I design lesson plans and teach one to two times each semester.
Data Center Open Houses
The Northeast Regional Planetary Data Center hosts open houses at Brown University. I explain exhibits to visitors, answer questions, and share the latest and greatest in planetary science. Visitors range from pre-K to adult. I have participated in the following open houses: Comet Tales (2013), Exploration of Icy Worlds (2014), From Mars to Pluto (2015).
I have contributed sections of planetary science-themed museum exhibits at the Museum of Natural History in Providence, RI and at the Northeast Regional Planetary Data Center. Exhibit titles: "Icy Worlds and the Discoveries of Dawn and New Horizons (2015)" and "From Mars to Pluto: Images from Curiosity, Dawn and New Horizons (2015)".
Elementary School Workshops
On behalf of of the Rhode Island Space Grant, I led standards-aligned, hands-on workshops at the Lawn School in Jamestown, RI. Students classes explored the scale of the Solar System.
Public Library Events
In 2014, the Johnston Public Library sponsored a summer science program for elementary school students. I crafted and led a hands-on session comparing our Solar System to the planetary systems around other stars.