Speaker Bios


January Speakers

Dr. Matthew Kenworthy is an associate professor at Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands. His research is on the direct imaging of extrasolar planets around nearby stars using the world's largest telescopes. More recently, he has become interested in searching for the transit of giant ring systems around exoplanets. 


Dr. Hans Moritz Günther received his undergraduate degree in Physics from the University of Hamburg, Germany, with a thesis on accretion signatures in T Tauri stars. He expanded that research for his PhD at the same institution. He also started to work on Roman river warships at that time. In 2010, Dr. Günther came to the U.S. as a Post-Doc, and is now a staff researcher at MIT. He is an active contributor to the development of astronomical software, and maintains the ray-tracing code for the Chandra X-ray observatory.
Melanie Crowson is the education director for the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute. A recent graduate from American Public University in spring 2020 with a Masters of Science degree in astronomy and space studies, with honors. She's the former Vice Chair of the Board for SEDS USA, and Darrell Cain award recipient of 2017, as well as AAVSO Ambassador. An active participant in research projects on variable stars, with a passion for astronomy starting from childhood and fostered through years of homeschooling. Melanie's interest in stars was solidified when she built a telescope with her dad.
Dr. Sarah Antier is an astrophysicist at Laboratoire Astroparticule et Cosmologie (Paris, France). She is member of the Virgo collaboration and PI of the GRANDMA collaboration.

February Speakers

Dennis Conti is currently Chair of AAVSO’s Exoplanet Section. He is author of “A Practical Guide to Exoplanet Observing” (see www.astrodennis.com), has spoken at various amateur astronomy clubs on the subject, published articles in Astronomy and Discover magazines, and conducted workshops and online courses on exoplanet observing. In addition, Dennis is currently a member of the TESS exoplanet follow-up team; as the liaison between the AAVSO and TESS, he qualified a number of citizen astronomers to be official TESS ground-based observers.
Dr. Luisa Rebull is a research astronomer at the NASA/IPAC Infrared Science Archive (IRSA) at Caltech. Ever since she was very little, she has always wanted to be an astronomer. She earned her undergraduate degree in physics from the College of William and Mary in Virginia, and her graduate degrees in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of Chicago. She has been on the science staff at IPAC since 2002. Her research focuses on the formation of young, low-mass stars (stars ~1 to 50 million years old) all over our Galaxy, and in understanding how stellar rotation changes over the first billion years of a star’s life.

March Speakers

Dr. Steve B. Howell is a senior research scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. He was formerly the Head of Space Science and Astrobiology for the NASA Ames Research Center, and the project scientist for NASA's premier exoplanet finding missions: Kepler and K2. Steve received his PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Amsterdam, and has worked in many aspects of astronomy, including pioneering the use of charge-coupled devices in astronomy; building new technology instruments for ground and space-based telescopes; and university research, education, and public outreach programs. Howell wrote over 800 scientific publications and numerous popular and technical articles. He also authored and edited nine books on astronomy and astronomical instrumentation, and wrote two science fiction books related to exoplanets.
Dr. David Whelan is an astronomer, and a professor in the Physics Department at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. Along with two of his students, Megan Frank and Jessica Junginger, he pursued the classification of Algol C in the Fall of 2020, using the Adams Observatory at Austin College.

April Speakers

Dr. Adam Burgasser is a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego, and director of the Cool Star Lab. He is an observational astrophysicist who studies the lowest-mass stars, brown dwarfs, and extrasolar planets. Adam is a specialist in stellar spectroscopy, low-mass binary systems, and stellar magnetic emission. In addition to his astronomical research, he conducts physics education research on metacognitive skill development, participates in art-science collaboratories, and works to address barriers to equity and inclusion in the practice of science.