Associate Research Scientist
I am an assistant astronomer (tenure track) at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore (USA) and an Associate Research Scientist at The Johns Hopkins University. I work on the MIRI instrument of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the largest space telescope to be launched into space in 2018.
I study different aspects of the debris disk phenomenon and transport and radial mixing in circumstellar disks, both in the solar system and in extrasolar planetary systems, using radiative transfer and dynamical models and observations. My interests include the statistical properties of the disks as derived from debris disk surveys (e.g. frequency, dust temperature/location, temporal evolution, debris disk-planet correlation) and the study of individual systems. Particular emphasis is given to debris disks known to harbor planets (including the interplanetary dust in our solar system) and disks with structural features, where the dust dynamics can unveil the presence of unseen planetary companions that would be difficult to detect with current planet-detection methods.
I am also participating in the search for planets in protoplanetary and debris disks via direct detectioncarrying out a survey of approximately 200 disks, half of which are debris disks. I have also worked on the exchange of debris between our solar system and other planetary system, under current conditions (to assess the possibility of detecting extrasolar planetesimal entering the solar system), and when the solar system was still embedded in the birth cluster. The latter study uses chaotic, quasi-parabolic orbits of minimal energy that increases the transfer probability by many orders of magnitude and may have allowed significant quantities of solid material to be exchange between planetary systems, making lithopanspermia a viable hypothesis from the dynamical point of view. All these studies help us place our solar system into context.
I am also interested in Public Outreach and Science Policy, making the public and the policy-makers fully aware of the critical role science plays in their lives and the irreversible damage of indiscriminate budget cuts in R&D.