I grew up in New York City and moved to California to attend Harvey Mudd College, where I got a B.S. in physics. I did my Ph.D. in physics at the University of California, Santa Cruz (“Fiat Slug”), but the actual research for that was performed at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (since renamed SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory) on the Final Focus Test Beam (FFTB) experiment. I worked as an accelerator physicist at SLAC and at CERN for 12 years after that, mainly researching future electron-positron linear colliders but also working here and there on existing electron accelerators and electron-positron colliders in various places. In the process I learned a lot about large, complex physical science experiments which operate on the bleeding edge of technology, and that experience has served me well on Kepler.
I’m a Scientific Programmer, which means that I write software which performs analysis on the data returned from Kepler. My first projects were all connected to commissioning: I wrote the software which uses measured star positions to determine the actual, as-built locations of the CCDs on the focal plane (“Focal Plane Geometry”), and was involved to a lesser extent in several other commissioning activities. After commissioning I worked with the team developing the Data Validation software, which analyzes the planet candidates detected in Kepler’s data and helps to determine which candidates are most likely real planets and which are most likely something else. While I still keep a hand in DV, my main work now is the ongoing development of the Transiting Planet Search (TPS) software, which tells DV which of our 170,000 target stars are interesting enough to analyze more thoroughly.
Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite
Since October of 2013 I've been working full time on a follow-on mission to Kepler, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which will perform a full-sky survey looking for the best exoplanet candidates for follow-on observations with the James Webb Space Telescope. TESS is scheduled for a late 2017 launch.