DPS 2020 Elections


The 2020 election for DPS Vice-Chair and Committee is now open, and will close on July 31st 2020.

To vote you will receive an email asking you to cast your ballot. Each email contains a link with a unique code that will bring you to the ballot site. There is no need to enter your AAS login information this year. You will be able to review the candidate statements and cast your vote. 

You should vote for one of the two candidates for Vice-Chair: 

  • Diana Blaney
  • Nader Haghighipour

The Vice-Chair will become the DPS Chair in October 2021.

You should vote for two of the four candidates for DPS Committee: 

  • Jessie Christiansen
  • Edgard Rivera-Valentín
  • Kelsi Singer
  • Matt Tiscareno 

The successful candidates will serve on the DPS Committee for three years.

You should vote for one of the two candidates for the student representatives to the DPS Committee:

  • Malena Rice
  • Maya Yanez

The successful student candidate will serve on the DPS Committee for two years.

The detailed vitae and position statements for each of the candidates follow.  

This information will also appear on the election page when you click on the link in your email sent from the AAS.


Candidate biographical notes and statements follow in alphabetical order.



Ph.D. in Geology and Geophysics, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1990
B.S. in Engineering Physics, The Ohio State University, 1984

Principal Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 2019 – Present
Project Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 2005 – 2019
Research Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 1996 – 2005
Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 1992 – 1996
National Research Council Research Associate, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 1990-1992
Principal Investigator, Multi-imaging Spectrometer for Europa (MISE), 2015-Present
Co-I and Investigation Scientist, Mars Science Laboratory Chem Cam, 2005-present
Mars Exploration Rovers Deputy Project Scientist, 2007-2015
Co-Investigator, Phoenix Mars 2007 Scout Mission, 2003-2009
Mini-TES Investigation Scientist Mars Exploration Rovers, 2000-2009 

Research Interests:  Surface composition and chemistry using short wavelength infrared reflectance spectroscopy, thermal emission spectroscopy, and laser induce breakdown spectroscopy.  Technology development programs to mature visible to short wavelength imaging spectrometers for landed and orbital planetary missions. Flight development and operations of optical instruments for landers and orbiters

Community Service:
DPS, Treasurer, 2007-2011 
DPS, Federal Relations Subcommittee, 2012-2015
DPS, Pasadena Meeting Local Organizing Committee Chair, 2016
Reviewer for ROSES and various journals 
Member of multiple NASA mission science definition teams and architecture studies

The murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor has exposed yet again the underlying endemic racism and violence directed toward Black Americans.  George Floyd’s killing prompted unprecedented nationwide protests over his death against police brutality and systemic and institutionalized racism.  Members of Division of Planetary Sciences (DPS) community have encountered racism in their personal and professional lives. The American Astronomical Society statement to Support Black Americans Now and the DPS action list are important acknowledgements of this reality and are recognition of the need for change.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues taking lives and disrupting all aspects of the way we live.   COVID-19 impacts on the education, careers, and scientific research carried out by DPS membership is not uniformly distributed throughout its members, but is tied to career-stage, institutional employment type, research type,  job responsibilities, health, family situation, and community standing.  Its impact is also tied to inequality and racism in our society and health care system. 

The first step is to speak clearly and honestly about how the world is, not how we imagine it to be.  That conversation has started, but needs to be expanded to ensure that those who have been most impacted and those whose voices have been marginalized voices are heard. 

The next steps will be even harder.  The magnitude of the challenges facing the DPS as an organization and us as individuals can be daunting.  The DPS needs to prioritize the elimination of racist barriers in our field that are often cloaked in tradition, process, or habit.  The DPS needs to advocate for and support our membership as they struggle through the impacts of the COVID-19 epidemic.  The DPS must also not ignore other important issues like the treatment international scholars or the Decadal Survey now under way.   We as a community have no other choice than to tackle these problems now.

As I’ve watched events unfold, listened to people with different experiences and perspectives, and learned from organizations who are trying to solve these problems, it has caused me to think about these issues in new ways and examine my own role in the system.   I’m not going to pretend I have the answers.  I’m not even sure that I am asking the right questions.  I have a lot of work to do to confront my own filters and biases.  

If elected DPS Vice-Chair, I will work to remove racist barriers in our field.  I will promote the health and welfare of the DPS community, especially those who are most vulnerable.  

I will be honest and frank with the membership about decisions and motivations.     I don’t know now what can be accomplished, but I will channel the anger and sadness that I am feeling into trying to make the DPS and the planetary science community better. 

Thank you for considering me for DPS Vice Chair.


PhD (1999)     University of Missouri-Columbia (Planetary Dynamics)     

Professional Career
2016 – Present : Full Astronomer (Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii)
2010 – 2016    : Associate Astronomer (Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii)
2004 – 2010    : Assistant Astronomer  (Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii)
2001 – 2004    : NASA Origin/NASA Astrobiology Fellow (DTM, Carnegie Institute)
2000 – 2001    : Postdoctoral Fellow (Dearborn Observatory, Northwestern University)
1999 – 2000    : Visiting Assistant Professor (Dept. Physics & Astronomy, UC-Irvine)

Service to the Community

Position Held
2019-present   President of International Association of Planetary Sciences, Commission 7
2019-present   Vice-President of IUGG, Union Commission on Planetary Science
2015-present   Member of the IAU Small Bodies Nomenclature Working Group (SBN)
2015-present   Adviser to President of IAU Division F (Planetary Sciences and Astrobiology)
2015-present   Founder and Organizer of the TESS Circumbinary Planets Working Group
2015-2018       President of IAU Division F (Planetary Sciences and Astrobiology)
2012-2018       Member of the Steering Committee of the Kepler Circumbinary Working Group
2012-2016       Member of the Steering Committee of the Kepler Habitable Zone Working Group
2012-2015       Vice President of IAU Division F (Planetary Systems and Bioastronomy)
2012-2015       Member of Organizing Committee of IAU Commission 51 (Bioastronomy) 
2012-2015       Member of Organizing Committee of IAU Commission 7 (Celestial Mechanics) 
2010-2012       Committee Member of the AAS Division on Dynamical Astronomy

Synergistic Activities
-Organizer and member of SOC of 28 national and international conferences and 10 AAS special sessions

-Reviewer for ApJ, AJ, PASP, MNRAS, IJA, Icarus, JGR, A&A, PSS, Journal of Advances in Space Research, Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy, Computational Astrophysics and Cosmology, ……

-Member of review panels and external reviews for
  NASA: Emerging Worlds, SSO, EXOB, NPP, NAI, PAST, OPR, PGG, NASA Keck, NASA Lunar
  Advanced Science and Exploration Research program, 

  NSF: Small Bodies, AAG PLA EXOT

Austrian Science Fund (FWF), Austrian Academy of Science
Chilean National Commission on Scientific and technology Development, 
Israel National Science Foundation, 
Belgium Science Foundation, 
Georgia Science & Innovation Foundation,
Hungry Office of National research and Development,
Leibniz Research Association, Germany.

Education Public Outreach
-Organizing and teaching at over 20 national and international workshops and training schools 
-Training/advising 11 graduate students at masters and PhD levels 
-Training 23 undergraduate students including 11 REU students
-Numerous national and international public lectures, TV, and radio appearances 
-Director of IfA REU program

It is a great pleasure to run for the Vice-President of the DPS. The last two decades have witnessed unprecedented progress in planetary science. Thanks to advances in detection technology and data received from space missions, groundbreaking discoveries have extended the frontiers of research in our field to limits unimaginable before. As the AAS and international authority in planetary science, the DPS has been playing a strong role in promoting research in this area and in supporting current and future projects that further the progress and developments of our field. The latter will constitute the foundation of my efforts if I am elected vice-president of our division. I have extensive experience in running large astronomical entities including the IAU Division F (Planetary Science and Astrobiology) where I served as vice-president from 2012 to 2015, and was elected president from 2015 to 2018 (I am currently serving as the adviser to the division president). During my tenure at the IAU, I started several new initiatives, the most widely recognized of which being the IAU PhD thesis award. I have served on numerous scientific advisory committees in the US and throughout the world, and have more than two decades experience in organizing scientific conferences. I am determined to fully utilize my experience in running the matters of our division, promoting our research activities, ensuring diversity and participation from all branches of planetary science, continuing DPS’ strong support of students and young researchers, and enhancing the visibility of our division both nationally and internationally.



Research Areas

Detection, characterization and analysis of extrasolar planetary systems; exoplanet demographics; exoplanet space missions; identifying the dominant planet formation, migration and evolution processes that sculpt the populations we see today.


2018-present: Research Scientist, NASA Exoplanet Archive Deputy Science Lead, NASA Exoplanet Science Institute/Caltech, CA, USA
2013-2018: Staff Scientist, NASA Exoplanet Science Institute/Caltech, CA, USA
2010-2013: Staff Scientist, Kepler Science Office, NASA Ames Research Center, CA, USA
2008-2010: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard-Smithsonian, MA, USA

2007: PhD (Astronomy), University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
2003: BSc Hons (Astronomy, First Class), Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
2002: BSc (Advanced Studies), Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia

Selected Awards and Achievements
2019: NASA JPL Voyager Award
2018: NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal
2018: Outstanding Young Alumnus, Griffith University
2018: University of Southern Queensland Research Giant
2013-2017: Kepler Participating Scientist

Selected Service to the Community
Exoplanet Program Analysis Group (ExoPAG) Executive Committee member, 2018-present
NExSS steering committee member, 2018-present
SOC Chair, NExScI Exoplanet Demographics Conference, November 2020, CA, USA
SOC Co-chair, TESS Science Conference I, July 2019, MA, USA
Caltech Women in Physics, Maths and Astronomy (WiPMA) faculty advisor, 2017-present
Caltech Women Mentoring Women group leader, 2017-2019
SOC/LOC member for various meetings 2015-2018
Reviewer for various NASA panels (XRP, HST, NPP, Spitzer) 2012-2019
Referee for Nature Astronomy, MNRAS, ApJ, AJ, A&A, and Astronomy & Computing


Thank you for considering my nomination to the DPS committee. I would be honored to have a part in moving the DPS forward, through the Astronomy and Planetary Science Decadal Survey processes, and into the work of the next decade. In brief, if elected I would concentrate on two broad areas that I will detail further below: building and strengthening the cross-disciplinary ties between planetary science and exoplanets; and addressing diversity issues in the leadership and science teams of planetary science projects.

Since moving to the US in 2008, I have attended many AAS and DPS meetings. Over that time, I have observed that the ‘home’ of the field of exoplanets within the society has been uncertain, and I have not been alone in this observation. This uncertainty is replicated in departments and divisions across academia and government institutions – do exoplanets belong in planetary science departments or in astronomy departments? The clear answer is that they are a bridge between the two, and the only way to understand exoplanets fully is by exploiting the decades of established work in both fields. Many members of the DPS are now actively seeking ways in which studies of exoplanets can benefit from planetary science results, and vice versa. New collaborations are being established, and workshops being held (for example “Exoplanets in our Backyard” in February 2020), in order to accelerate our understanding by bringing in expert domain-specific knowledge from a variety of sub-fields. 

As we look forward into the next decade, I am excited by the many upcoming opportunities to continue growing and expanding upon these initial overtures. I am a steering committee member of NExSS (the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science), a NASA research coordination network that brings together teams working on exoplanets, planetary science, and Earth science to study planetary habitability. One clear outcome has been that having cross-disciplinary science team members – exoplanet astronomers on planetary science mission teams, planetary science members on exoplanet mission teams – is key to identifying and capitalizing on opportunities afforded by the unique data sets. If elected, I would work to find ways to foster these efforts, including language in proposal calls and reporting requirements. Another outcome has been the identification of the broad lack of knowledge of what work has been done in each field; for instance, understanding which planetary observations exist that are analogous to or could be recast as equivalent exoplanet observations, such as atmospheric transmission spectra. I am a founding member of a partnership between JPL and the NASA Exoplanet Archive to establish an exoplanet Planetary Data System (PDS) node. This node would enable access to planetary science observations in a format that would be relevant to exoplanet astronomers (one example would be phase curves of Venus as a function of angle of incidence), and vice versa. If elected, I would work to make sure the DPS membership was consulted and could maximize their use of the developed node.

The second area I would focus on is increasing the diversity in planetary science project leadership and science teams. This has been a longstanding and well-publicized issue, and one that I know many DPS members are cognizant of and wish to address. While previous discussions have focused largely on the low percentage of (white) women in and leading these teams, it seems that we are, belatedly, also arriving at a place where we as a society can discuss the issue of the lack of black, indigenous, and people of color in these positions. Numerous studies have shown that diverse teams design more creative solutions, and all of DPS benefits from such teams. There have been several initiatives put in place by NASA in the past year, including the PI Launchpad workshop, to broaden the pool of potential mission PIs, and dual-anonymous review, to reduce the impact of implicit biases on grant funding. I would work to assess the efficacy of these initiatives on improving diversity in the pool of potential planetary science leaders, and to investigate additional solutions. These could include, for instance, fostering DPS programs to target research opportunities to traditionally underserved communities – opportunities that can be crucial for applying to graduate school and to network for future opportunities. DPS needs to be proactive in identifying and mentoring talent from a diverse pool, and I would work, as I have done for my career to date, to help make that happen.

Thank you again for considering my nomination to the DPS committee. 


Ph.D. in Space and Planetary Sciences, University of Arkansas, 2012
B.A. in Physics, & in Mathematics, Alfred University, 2008

Planetary Scientist, Lunar and Planetary Institute (USRA): 2017 – present
Planetary Radar Astronomer, Arecibo Observatory (USRA): 2014 – 2017
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Brown University: 2012 – 2014

Selected Awards & Honors:
Asteroid 389478 (2010 ER87) now named 389478 Rivera-Valentín
NASA Early Career Fellow, Planetary Science Division, named 2016, awarded 2019
USRA Service Award, Arecibo Observatory, 2016
Doctoral Academy Fellow, University of Arkansas, 2008 – 2012
Diversity Leadership Award, Alfred University, 2008

Selected Service to the Community:
Science Editor, AAS Planetary Science Journal, 2020 – present
Convener, First Billion Years: Habitability Conference, 2019
Co-Convener, #TeamRadarCon, 2019
Member, Arecibo Observatory Users Committee, 2019 – present
Session Convener, Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, 2018 – present
Member, DPS Professional Culture and Climate Subcommittee, 2017 – present
Member, DPS Professional Development Subcommittee, 2015 – 2017
Leading 3 white papers for the Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey: 
1. The importance of ground-based radar observations for planetary exploration
2. The water cycle on a salty Mars: Science and exploration strategies for understanding present-day atmosphere-regolith interactions
3. Who is missing in Planetary Science? Demographics showing Black and Latinx scientists are the most underrepresented 

Selected Education & Public Engagement:
Co-Organizer, LPI’s Early Career Virtual Networking Event, April 2020
Co-Organizer, Workshop: Presenting to Culturally Diverse Audiences, April 2020
Co-Coordinator, LPI-JSC Summer Internship Program, 2018 – present
Co-Organizer & Presenter, Professional Development Seminar Series for Interns, 2018 – present 
Co-Organizer & Presenter, Workshop: Submitting a Competitive Internship Application, SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science), 2018 – present
Manager & Mentor, Arecibo Observatory Space Academy for high school students, 2015 – 2018
Instructor, Alfred University Summer Astronomy Institute for high school students, 2013 – present
Media appearances: PBS NOVA’s The Planets, National Geographic’s One Strange Rock


While a postdoctoral researcher, I had the privilege of attending the Mellon Mays Foundation graduation program. There I heard a talk by a researcher studying the disparities and inequalities in access to education across the world. In her talk, she challenged the audience to realize that as people who have had access to education it is our responsibility to leverage our degrees and positions, not only for the improvement of science, but the improvement of society and those around us. Throughout my career, I have tried in earnest to take up that challenge. 

I was honored when the DPS Nominating Subcommittee considered me suitable to serve as a member of the DPS Committee. If I were elected to this position by the DPS membership, I would work to leverage it to continue promoting a diverse and inclusive culture in the community. This has been my goal in previous positions that I have held. As a member of the DPS Professional Development Subcommittee, I worked to increase the communication of job and professional development opportunities to the community through social media. As a current member of the Professional Culture and Climate Subcommittee, I have worked to identify areas of need for the community and have worked alongside the committee to provide recommendations and action items to the DPS Committee. Most recently, I have led a demographic analysis of the community using both the 2011 and 2020 planetary science workforce surveys to identify trends in underrepresentation. In this work, which will be submitted as a white paper to the Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey, we show that Black / African Americans and Latinx / Hispanics are the most underrepresented groups, by nearly 90% and 70% respectively. Further, even though there has been some improvement in the Latinx / Hispanic representation in planetary science (an increase of ~4% between 2011 and 2020), there has been no change in the Black / African American representation over the past 9 years. We need to do better as a community. We need to work on dismantling the systemic oppression that is pervasive in our society and in our community. Diversity initiatives over the past decade have failed Black / African Americans. The recommendations we provide in the white paper are motivated by these findings and work to develop policies and practices that actively oppose the systemic oppression faced by members of our community. What we have learned is that we have to do more than acknowledge the existence of biases. We have to work to develop ways to actively oppose them.

In my current position as a staff scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, I have worked to promote such policies. As one of the co-coordinators of the LPI’s summer intern program, I have helped develop professional development programming for our interns, implicit bias training for the mentors, and targeted intern recruitment strategies, which have included attending and participating at the annual SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos / Hispanics and Native Americans in Science) conference. As a conference convener, I have enacted double anonymous review for the selection of travel award recipients, and as one of the session leads for the annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, I have worked to apply practices that help remove biases in oral vs poster assignments (e.g., by first scoring abstracts based on title and a quick read through without author names, and then scoring again after a thorough read through with author names). 

As a member of the DPS Committee, I would help to develop similar strategies that actively oppose biases and the systemic oppression faced by some of our community members. Scientific progress is dictated not by a single person, but by the group. It is when we work together inclusively that we can take the biggest steps forward. 



Current Position: 
Senior Research Scientist, Southwest Research Institute.  My current work focuses on the geology and geophysics of icy bodies, and impact cratering across the solar system.  I have specific interests in empirical constraints on impact physics (including scaling laws and secondary craters), chaotic terrains, landslides, and ice volcanism.  I also work closely with spacecraft mission operations, observation planning, and spacecraft mission proposals. 

2013:  Ph.D. Earth and Planetary Sciences, Washington University in St. Louis
2008:  M.A. Earth and Planetary Sciences, Washington University in St. Louis
2006:  B.A. Astronomy and Anthropology, University of Colorado at Boulder 
Career and Mission Experience:
2014–Present:  Southwest Research Institute
–  2019–Present:  Deputy Project Scientist on New Horizons Extended Mission 
–  2016–Present:  Co-I on New Horizons Extended Mission 
–  2014–2017:  Postdoctoral Researcher on New Horizons 
2013–2014:  Washington University in St. Louis, Postdoctoral Associate with LROC

Selected Service and Outreach:
2020–Present:  JGR-Planets Associate Editor
2019–2020:  Icarus Special Issue Guest Editor
2019–2021:  DPS Prize Subcommittee
2015–2018:  DPS Nominating Subcommittee
2014-Present:  Numerous outreach activities for New Horizons, ranging from hour-long events to 2-day events, with students, educators, and the public, in-person and virtual, around the world
2010–Present:  DPS Professional Development Subcommittee – Mentoring Lead, Women in Planetary Science Discussion Lead
2008–Present:  Women in Planetary Science Blog Steering Committee
2009-2014:  President of the St. Louis Chapter of the Association for Women in Science
2006–2011:  Lead organizer for Women in Science Day for underserved high schoolers

Selected Professional Honors:
2019:  AAS/DPS Urey Prize for Early Career Scientific Achievement 
2018:  GSA Greeley award for Distinguished Service to Planetary Science
2017:  Editors’ Citation for Excellence in Refereeing – Geophysical Research Letters
2016:  NASA Early Career Fellow

One of the aspects I appreciate about DPS is that we are a great size for a professional organization.  We are large enough to bring together many people from all over the world and many different subdisciplines, but small enough to be flexible to arising needs and suggestions for improvements.  I have been amazed at the amount of momentum and energy for change I have seen in the DPS.  In the time since my first DPS (Puerto Rico in 2009), we have started 4 new subcommittees (Professional Development, a reincarnation of Publications, Professional Culture and Climate, and the latest of Environment Affairs), doubling the number of subcommittees.  These and other focused groups arose from grass-roots efforts due to critical needs in our community, leading to many new initiatives, resources, and great discussions.  

The current times have no fewer serious challenges for our field.  There are long standing challenges, unique challenges that have come up recently, and also issues that may come up in the near future.  Many things have happened on a national and global scale since I first started thinking about and writing this statement.  And who knows what will happen in between when I write this and when you read it!  But I would hope we can continue to be an adaptable field, advocate for our funding, create professional opportunities for all, and do great science!  These are big ideals, and no one person or one term of service can address all of these.  But even small acts can make a big difference, and I would strive to be a part of the solutions that are needed.

I am committed to and passionate about the following: (1) listening to members from every facet of our community, (2) partnering with and learning from larger organizations (e.g., AAS, AGU) to promote sustainable growth of our community, (3) continued professional development, training, and collaboration opportunities, (4) growing the diversity of our field, and STEM in general, in many dimensions, (5) using metrics and data to assess the needs of our field, and (6) accessing the expertise of people both inside and outside of our field (e.g., the statistics division of the AIP, social scientists) to implement creative solutions and best practices.  Some of these commitments are evidenced in the biography section.  Speaking to sustainable growth, our field has grown over the past 50+ years and so have the DPS and the needs of our community.  Organizations like the AGU have already run across a lot of issues similar to what we will face as we grow.  While we have a long way to go before we reach AGU-size, but here is an example: as part of the Professional Development subcommittee I have been in communication with the AGU about mentoring programs and have received a lot of great advice on the many programs they have already tried and what works best for them.  

I know I am not alone when I say that the Annual DPS Meeting is one of my favorite conferences.  This is because of the tireless efforts of many of our members and the AAS staff across many years to make the meeting and the society an engaging professional home for planetary scientists.  I am honored to be considered for the DPS committee. 


Ph.D. in Planetary Science, University of Arizona: 2004
B.S. in Planetary Science, Caltech: 1998

Senior Research Scientist, SETI Institute: 2015–present
Senior Research Associate, Cornell University: 2011–15
Research Associate, Cornell University: 2004–11

Team Memberships and Associations:
Node Manager, Planetary Data System (PDS) Ring-Moon Systems Node: 2020–present
Team Member, Planetary Data System (PDS) Ring-Moon Systems Node: 2015–present
Cassini Participating Scientist: 2013–19
Cassini Imaging Team Associate: 2004–19

Selected Honors and Awards:
NASA Group Achievement Award (Cassini Imaging Team): 2009, 2018
Certificate of Excellence in Reviewing, Icarus: 2013
NASA Early Career Fellowship: 2011

Selected Service to the Community:
Director, SETI Institute site, NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU): 2017–present
Member, NASA Planetary Data System (PDS) Roadmap Study Team: 201617
Lead Editor, Planetary Ring Systems, Cambridge University Press (582pp), published 2018
Associate Editor, Earth Moon and Planets, 2011–2015
AAS Division for Planetary Scienes (DPS):  
– DPS Professional Culture and Climate Subcommittee member: 2016–present
– DPS Meeting LOC member: 2008, 2020
– DPS Meeting SOC member: 2011, 2014
AAS Division on Dynamical Astronomy (DDA):  
– DDA Committee member: 2014–16 
– DDA LOC Co-Chair: 2018
– DDA SOC member: 2016, 2017


We are living in a remarkable and momentous time.  The Covid-19 epidemic, the upcoming Decadal Survey, and the continuing polarization of our society are all matters of great importance to the planetary science community.  I am honored to have been asked to run for DPS Committee.  If elected I would do my best to address the challenges that confront us with sober judgment and thoughtful dialogue. 

The DPS is our community, as planetary scientists.  Institutions such as the DPS have great power, either to maintain the status quo or to bring about change.  I strongly believe that we must direct that power wisely, conserving our institutions but also steering them in the direction of a more just and equitable society. 

The social unrest we now experience is only a visible manifestation of what has always been true: we live in a society that was built to favor certain demographics and to disfavor others.  This is true within academia as much as elsewhere.  As someone who does not belong to any marginalized groups, I am keenly aware of my responsibility to use whatever platform I may have to boost opportunities for people with a variety of perspectives to speak and lead. 

We have made progress in promoting inclusive institutions and in fighting harassment that may occur during our meetings, thanks in part to the leadership of the DPS Professional Culture and Climate Subcommittee.  In the current crisis, I am particularly pleased with the DPS leadership’s movement toward partnering with minority-led institutions to better serve scientists from under-represented communities.  However, much remains to be done within our community to promote the well-being of women, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ folks, those with disabilities, and others.  

Like any community, our members hold divergent viewpoints, and everyone’s perspective is important.  I have experience with dialogue practices in which value is placed on respecting our common humanity amid such differing beliefs and convictions.  One thing I pledge is to always be ready to listen, and to engage with any honestly-held viewpoint. 

The DPS has been a home for me since I first attended the 2000 meeting as a starry-eyed graduate student.  I have attended every meeting since, except one.  I am passionate about orbital dynamics, and about Saturn and its rings.  I love writing and editing, and I’ve participated in conversations about increasing equity in our publishing institutions.  I love helping to steward NASA’s data treasures, and helping researchers find and use the data they need.  I love helping undergraduates onto a more secure path to academic careers through summer internships.  I love working through institutions to help people to flourish.

I am also active in another AAS division (the DDA), where I gained experience as a division committee member.  I have served on various committees and have been generally active in community governance discussions.  I would be honored to serve in this capacity. 



Ph.D. in Astronomy, Yale University (in progress; expected 2022)
M.S., M.Phil. in Astronomy, Yale University, 2020
B.A. in Physics, Astrophysics, UC Berkeley, 2017

Past and Ongoing Research Experience
Yale University – Asteroid occultations, interstellar object origins, stellar spectroscopy, Planet Nine, searching for trans-Neptunian objects with TESS (2017-present)
UC Berkeley – Debris disk characterization with the Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey (2015-present)
University College London – Exoplanet atmospheres; target optimization for the Twinkle Space Mission (2016)
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center – Cassini CIRS analysis of Titan’s atmospheric water abundance (2015)

Selected Honors and Awards
NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (2017-present)
Pierazzo International Student Travel Award – awarded by the Planetary Science Institute to attend the February 2020 Expanding the Science of TESS workshop (2020)
CT Space Grant Graduate Research Fellowship (2019)
UC Berkeley Leadership Award (2013-2014, 2016-2017)
UC Berkeley Regents’ and Chancellor’s Research Fellowship (2016, 2x)
UC Berkeley Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholarship (2013-2017)
UCL International Students Dean’s Summer Student Scholarship (2016)
CA Space Grant Undergraduate Research Fellowship (2016)

Selected Community-Building
Yale Astronomy Town Hall Committee (2020-present)
Yale Astro Sibs Mentoring Program – Co-Founder, Coordinator (2018-present)
Yale Astronomy Department Climate and Diversity Committee – Co-Founder, Member (2018-present)
UC Berkeley Undergraduate Astronomy Society – Founder, Head Coordinator (2015-2017)
UC Berkeley Astronomy Career Development Seminar – Undergraduate Coordinator (2016-2017)
UC Berkeley Astronomy Mentoring Program – Co-Founder, Undergraduate Coordinator (2016-2017)

Education and Outreach
Astro[sound]bites Podcast Co-Founder and Co-Host (2019-present)
Astronomy on Tap New Haven – Head Coordinator (2018-present)
McDougal/Poorvu Graduate Writing Fellow (2020-present)
McDougal/Poorvu Graduate Teaching Fellow (2018-present)
Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning – Student Advisory Committee Member (2019-2020)


I am grateful to be considered for the position of the Student Representative on the DPS Committee, where I would represent and elevate the voices of early-career planetary scientists. My thesis focuses on understanding planetary systems from the lens of minor planets, both in the solar system and in extrasolar systems. In my short career so far, I have had the privilege of working across a broad range of subfields in planetary science, benefiting from the decades of foundational work going into space missions such as Cassini and TESS, as well as ground-based minor planet observations. By serving on the DPS Committee, I will be able to give back to the vibrant planetary science community that has already given me so much. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of my scientific interests, I regularly interact with students from many subfields of planetary science, and I would therefore be able to represent a wide range of student views and interests.

I am always searching for ways to build and strengthen my community, and, in particular, to support early-career scientists. At both UC Berkeley and Yale, I have initiated, developed, and led several departmental programs to address student needs — including mentoring initiatives, undergraduate research symposia, department-wide networking lunches, graduate school and internship application workshops/panels, and industry seminars from recently graduated PhD students. I strongly believe that resources and support should be available to all students pursuing a range of career paths, whether those goals focus on industry, research, or education. It is our duty to uplift others as we progress in our careers. As a member of the DPS Committee, I look forward to contributing to directed efforts on a larger scale and extending these efforts to the broader planetary science community at DPS meetings.

As the DPS Student Representative, I would advocate for not only graduate students across the planetary sciences, but also undergraduates, post-baccalaureate students, and other early-career scientists. I firmly believe that science should be accessible for all – and yet, actions speak louder than words. I pledge to not only listen to and amplify diverse perspectives, but to also work on actionable items to make planetary science more inclusive by advocating for accessibility, diversity among speakers and award winners, and policies that prevent harassment and discrimination at conferences.

In the current transition towards online conferences, it is also crucial to ensure that the high quality of valuable workshops and networking opportunities is maintained. These are some of the trickiest aspects of a conference to preserve in a virtual format, and yet they are absolutely invaluable to students at the start of their careers. As a Graduate Writing Fellow and a Graduate Teaching Fellow at Yale’s Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, I have led several online workshops dedicated to teaching and mentoring, as well as a virtual scientific fellowship proposal peer-review group. From these, I have gained important insights to effectively navigate virtual spaces and to support professional development online. As a member of the DPS Committee, I will prioritize efforts to preserve professional development opportunities through support and training for workshop organizers, as well as structured, purposeful mentorship and online networking events.


[email protected] ; @PlanetaryMaya

·      Ph.D. in Geobiology, University of Southern California (USC), in progress, estimated completion 2024
·      B.A. in Astronomy, CU Boulder 2019, Cum laude

·      Teaching Assistant, “History of Life on Earth: A View from the Museum,” USC Dept. of Earth Sciences, Spring 2020
·      Teaching Assistant, “Oceanography,” USC Dept. of Earth Sciences, Fall 2019
·      Teacher, SongAm Space Center Summer English Space Camp, South Korea, Summer 2019
·      Learning Assistant, “Accelerated Introduction to Astronomy,” CU Boulder Dept. of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences (APS), Fall 2017

·      Southern California Geobiology Symposium Planning Committee Member, 2019-Present
·      DPS Professional Development Committee Member, 2018-Present
·      Founder and President of UnderRepresented Students in Astronomy (URSA), CU Boulder, 2017-2019
·      Group Leader and Volunteer, CU Boulder Science, Technology, & Astronomy Recruits (CU STARs) 2016-2018
·      Telescope Volunteer and Trainer, Sommers-Bausch Observatory, 2016-2019
·      Student Academic Success Center, CU, Panelist & Peer Mentor, 2017-2018
·      AAS Congressional Visit Day Participant, 2017
·      Undergraduate Representative, CU Boulder APS Department Course Fees Committee, 2017-2018
·      Undergraduate Representative, CU Boulder APS Department Inclusive Excellence Committee, 2015-2016


In my undergraduate career, I have completed observational astronomy campaigns studying Pluto’s evolving surface. When choosing a graduate program, I aimed for a Geology/Geobiology program in order to explore the impacts that life can leave behind. The current focus of my work is acetylene fermentation in Titan analogue conditions, in order to discern what impacts and biosignatures could be found in future Titan missions (i.e. Dragonfly), while also determining the limits of unique Earth life. 


Recent events in our country highlight the ever-present need for discourse. There has to be discussion about the role of everyone in being advocates, allies, and bystanders. Having representation that mirrors the populace is key to guarantee that all voices are heard. As someone who comes from many intersectional backgrounds (Latina, first-generation college student, a low socioeconomic background), I am aware of how some perspectives are rarely listened to. This comes across in many ways: a student at a conference who gets invited to a meal that costs their entire per diem; a student who doesn’t know the first step to finding an advisor and sees no one that looks like them to ask; or a student who is trying to be successful but finds themselves hurt and downtrodden from the events in our country and without an ally to discuss those events.

Graduate students are inherently intersectional as well: a university views us as students, researchers, and staff simultaneously (and often whatever category benefits the institution most at that time). The problems students deal with in our field are unique and not necessarily shared by later career scientists. I may not have the solutions, but it is our responsibility to hear these problems and address them together. It is our duty as scientists and citizens to speak up, so that the options that benefit the most people can be chosen. The student voice is a huge presence in our field, and students will inevitably become the future voices that continue to guide change and progress, both scientifically and socially. I am passionate and determined to be the voice for other students. I want to be able to speak to and represent other students while keeping our best interests in mind in committee meetings. DPS is the first professional society and conference that I attended: it was my introduction to the scientific community. And for many other students it will continue to serve as their introduction to professional societies and the planetary science community: together, we can create the best introduction for them. 

I joined DPS in 2016. When I attended my first DPS conference, I was overjoyed by the opportunities to participate and have my voice heard. What was a little frustrating at the time was being told I could not participate because I was an undergraduate student. But I found ways to be involved with the Congressional Visit Day in 2017 and a member of the Professional Development Committee since 2018. I even found myself hosting the DPS Student/Post-Doc reception at the 2018 Knoxville DPS Meeting. And now, I find myself overjoyed once again, standing for election as the first DPS Student representative. 

Throughout my undergraduate education, I was a frequent advocate for underrepresented students and inclusivity/diversity efforts. I was the undergraduate representative on the Inclusive Excellence Committee: a CU Boulder initiative to improve inclusivity and diversity beginning in departments. I created URSA, an organization dedicated to increasing retention rates of underrepresented students in the astronomy major at CU Boulder. This was accomplished through community, graduate student mentors, and the distribution of advice and resources that are often unclear to underrepresented students. I have a history of advocation and representation that I aim to continue by being the DPS Student Representative. 

In this crazy year, we need to be reminded to listen to one another, advocate for one another, and work together to overcome the obstacles ahead. It may not be easy, and it will take time, but I want to be a part of that solution. Thank you for your consideration.