Jeffrey Coughlin

Jeffrey Coughlin
Director of the K2 Science Office
Degree/Major: 
Ph.D. Astronomy
Major Awards: 

NASA's Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal (2016)

For leadership and innovation in the construction of the first uniform catalog of Kepler planetary candidates

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (2009-2012)

Curriculum Vitae: 
Discipline: 
Astrophysics
Making the Complex Simple

Dr. Jeffrey Coughlin is the Director of the K2 Science Office for NASA's K2 Mission. He leads the team responsible for ensuring that the highest quality data is obtained by the K2 Mission and delivered to K2's customers in the Astronomical community.

Previous to this, Jeff was a a SETI Support Scientist for for the Kepler Science Office. His work focused on vetting potential planet candidates found by the mission by utilizing both humans and robotic algorithms. He also supported public access to the Kepler Mission data via on-line documentation and data management.

Jeff has been interested in and working on exoplanets and eclipsing binaries for over ten years. He became interested in the Kepler project several years before launch when applying to graduate school. His Ph.D. work was predominantly with Kepler observations, and he was thrilled to be able to work as part of the team after graduation.

Technical Description of work: 

K2 is the second phase of NASA's Kepler Mission, collecting high-precision photometric measurements for a large number of targets in a new field of view every ~90 days. K2 continues to make incredible discoveries and advance many sub-fields of Astronomy, including exoplanets, supernovae, asteroids, solar system minor and major planets, and stellar and galactic astrophysics.

Jeff leads the team that ensures the highest quality data is obtained by K2, processed by the K2 team, and delivered to NASA archives for use by K2's customers in the Astronomical community. Jeff ensures this work happens in a timely and efficient manner, and facilitates communication between all involved parties, including spacecraft engineers, programmers, operators, astronomers, archivists, senior management, and customers.

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NASA's Kepler Mission was a space-based telescope that monitors over 150,000 stars to find Earth-like and other planets. The team worked together to comb this very large data set for planetary signals, statistically validate them, and obtain robust estimates of the physical parameters of each planet. They published the results both in scientific journals as well as wrote easily-accessible documentation for the publicly-released data.

Jeff's role was to develop new algorithms and software products to support operational decision making in the classification of planetary signals, and work with software engineers to implement them. As part of the science team, he helped prioritize the team's research to meet mission deadlines and communicate our progress to senior level management. He also help maintained the team's planetary database and worked to increase the team's operational efficiency via the implementation of automated decision and data collection methods.

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