I am an associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Planetary Astronomy in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Faculty of Science, at The University of British Columbia. I am also the co-director of The Outer Space Institute, a transdisciplinary organization that addresses challenges associated with NewSpace.
My research program has the overarching vision to study planet formation using a variety of tools, including simulations and observations. I strive to explore multiple epochs in planet formation, from processes in the early stages of disk evolution (setting initial conditions) to the long-term orbital configurations of planets and their debris (what is usually observed). Questions that drive my program include: How does the star formation process itself and the early evolution of circumstellar discs affect the formation of planets? How were primitive solids thermally processed during the formation of the Solar System and what can they tell us about planet formation in general? What are common formation channels for planet building? Which processes are the most important for giving rise to the diversification of planetary system architectures? What do debris systems (including Solar System debris) tell us about planet formation? In what ways is the Solar System unique and in what ways is it typical? These questions directly address major issues in both planetary and exoplanetary sciences.
With the rise of NewSpace, my research program also addresses space sustainability, including orbital debris, the impact of mega-constellation satellites on astronomy, space security and militarization, and potential issues with space resource extraction.
We use a combination of high-end computing and observations to address our science questions. In particular, we use simulation and modelling to explore the evolution of planet-forming disks, the dynamical interactions between planets, and the thermal processing of meteorite parent body materials through shocks during planet building. We also use the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillmetre Array, one of the most powerful observing facilities on the planet, to test models.
Research Team and Mentorship
Our research team:
T. Do (Undergraduate), conducting asteroid impact risks for planetary defence
A. Falle, Research Coordinator for the Outer Space Institute and OSI junior fellow
L. Fladeland (MSc student), investigating debris formation due to asteroid mining.
S. Hagey (MSc student), examining orbital decay of ultra short-period planets, as well as transit duration variations in exoplanet systems
A. Simon-Bulter (PhD student), studying international law and is application to space, including state obligations and their licencing of mega-constellation satellites
S. Thiele (Undergraduate), OSI junior fellow working on debris implications for anti-satellite weapon tests
E. Wright (PhD student), working on space sustainability, with a focus on the consequences of uncontrolled re-entries by abandoned rocket bodies in orbit.
A. Hughes (PhD), investigating radio emission from M stars.
Katie Rink (Undergraduate), orbital debris and a space sustainability index.
Carter Chene (Undergraduate), hydrodynamics simulations of large meteoroid airbursts.
Jared Splinter (Undergraduate), exoplanetary dynamics
Edmond Ng (Undergraduate), asteroid deflection using mass drivers.
Christa Van Laerhoven (Postdoc), exoplanetary dynamics. Now working in education
A. P. Granados Contreras (PhD), working on dynamical interactions among planets in exoplanetary systems. Now a postdoc at ASIAA.
J. White (PhD), analyzing ALMA data of planet-forming discs. Now a postdoc at Konkoly Observatory
T. Kutra (Undergraduate), follow up observations of transiting exoplanet systems. Now a MSc student at Toronto
B. Pearce (USRA student), simulating shock producing mechanisms in planet-forming discs. Now a PhD student at McMaster
C. Mann (SURE award student), simulating chondrule formation in bow shocks. Now a PhD student at UdM
N. Leach (undergraduate), melting of asteroids with application to chondrule formation. Now a PhD student at UBC
Please read about my commitment to mentorship here.
Department of Physics and Astronomy
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