I am a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, TX. I study asteroids, the moons of Jupiter, and Saturn's rings, mostly at ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths of light. Studying planetary bodies in the UV tells us about the composition of the uppermost layers of their surface or atmosphere. Because the Earth's atmosphere blocks most of the UV light, the majority of my research is done using observations from spaced-based telescopes, like the Hubble Space Telescope, the Cassini Spacecraft, and the upcoming Europa Clipper mission.
I am the Composition Working Group Co-Chair for NASA's Europa Clipper mission and a Co-Investigator on the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph on the spacecraft, that will launch in the early 2020's, to study the habitability of Jupiter's icy moon, Europa. As a graduate student, I worked with the Cassini Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) team, studying Saturn's rings. You can see more about my research here.
One of the greatest things about the vastness of the universe is how unifying it is: I have encountered people of all ages, from across the globe and with different backgrounds, who all share the same innate curiosity and excitement about space. Often just mentioning what I study can trigger an incredibly engaging and fun discussion about what exists out beyond our own planet. I love capturing and sharing that energy whenever and wherever I can: it is one of the best parts of my job as a scientist.
As a result, I try to speak with kids and adults about our Solar System as often as possible, from hosting monthly Astronomy on Tap events to virtual Skype or Google Hangouts chats with classrooms across the globe.