Tze (Matt) Yu (Astro Grad)

Matt is examining models for the trapping of planets in an inner disk, incorporating a more realistic treatment of the disk physics. He is working in collaboration with Yasuhiro Hasegawa at JPL.


Kevin Hayakawa (Astronomy; PhD 2022)

Kevin wrote a thesis on the dust dynamics of small particles under the influence of planetary perturbations. The principal focus was on the structure of debris disks seeded by the analog of an irregular satellite system around extrasolar planets. He also worked on gas production in dust collisions, with Yasuhiro Hasegawa at JPL. After graduation, Kevin decided to follow his interest in teaching, starting as an assistant professor at Cal State Channel Islands.

Jon Zink (Astronomy; PhD 2021)

Jon Zink wrote a thesis on applying statistical inference methods to exoplanet demographics, working primarily with Jessie Christiansen at Nexsi. He published several papers on providing automated catalogs from K2 data, and left UCLA with a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellowship to continue his work at CalTech.

Alec Vinson (Astronomy; PhD 2020)

Alec wrote a thesis on the spin dynamics of planets in resonant multi-planet systems ( First paper ) with special relevance to the TRAPPIST system, which has some potentially habitable planets in this regime . After graduation (straight into the teeth of the 2020 pandemix), Alec taught as an instructor at UCLA before joining a federal defence contractor in Northridge.

Shane Frewen (Astronomy;PhD 2015)

Shane did a thesis on the dynamical stability of planetary systems undergoing stellar evolution. The motivations for this project are the observations of tidally disrupted asteroids around white dwarfs, which suggest that, at least some portion of planetary systems around old stars experience dynamical instability.

Upon graduation, Shane decided to follow his passion for teaching at Flintridge Prep. .

Ian Crossfield (Astronomy; PhD 2012)

Ian completed a thesis on the search for emission from hot Jupiter planets using a variety of telescopes, including Spitzer, Keck, IRTF and Subaru. He spent three years as a Sagan Prize Fellow at the Universities of Arizona and of California, Santa Cruz. He was faculty at MIT and then moved to the University of Kansas.

Thayne Currie (Astronomy; PHD 2006)

Thayne was my first research student, as faculty at UCLA. He worked on models of protoplanetary gas disk evolution with me, and then moved on to observational studies of infrared excesses in young clusters, working mostly with the CfA and Arizona groups, with Ben Zuckerman as official UCLA advisor, and Scott Kenyon as CfA advisor. Thayne is now an associate professor at University of Texas, San Antonio.

Eugene Chen (Physics; PHD 2008)

Eugene completed a thesis on the spectral evolution of white dwarfs under the influence of accretion from the ISM and how this affects observational quantities like the white dwarf luminosity function. Eugene moved into industry, working in data science, first at DecisionNext and now at Adobe.

F. Elliott Koch (Physics; PHD 2008)

Elliot has completed a thesis on gravitational dynamics. The two principal applications were studies of the interaction of multiple black holes in galactic nuclei and of the collisional evolution of planetesimals, with application to the formation of the irregular satellites of the solar system. Elliot is now a data scientist at Green Charge Networks, in the Bay Area.

Steve Berukoff (Physics; PHD 2009)

Steve completed a thesis in two parts. One was dynamical simulations of the dissolution of star clusters in the Galactic center, particularly ones with central black holes. The second part was a study of the dynamical and thermal stability of protoplanetary disks. After graduation, Steve moved into data management and is now the Data center project manager at the National Solar Observatory.

Postdoc Mentoring

I was also the faculty contact for an NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral/UC President's Postdoctoral Fellow, Aomawa Shields. She is now on the faculty at UC Irvine .

Undergraduate Research Projects

Hsin-Yi (Jenny) Shih (Physics; BS 2007)

Jenny worked on the assembly of planetesimals to form terrestrial-stype planets, but under the conditions appropriate to the formation of the pulsar planets. A paper summarising this work was published in the Astrophysical Journal in 2009. She went to grad school at the University of Hawaii, spent several years as an instructor at University of Hawaii, Maui College, and now works at STSCI .

Tiffany Meshkat (Physics; BS 2009)

Tiffany performed some calculations regarding the location and stability of trojan-class particles in extrasolar systems where the planets are on elliptical orbits. Tiffany went on to do a PhD at Leiden University in the Netherlands. She returned to Southern California as a research scientist at JPL and IPAC, before moving into Data Science .
Jonathan Zink (Physics; BS 2013)

Jon explored the limits placed by current radial velocity data on missing planets in high multiplicity exoplanet systems. This is part of an ongoing project to study the long term secular behaviour of such systems, because the secular oscillations of a system will depend on all the planets in a system. Jon went on to a PhD here at UCLA and a Hubble Fellowship at CalTech (see above)

Ron Lopez (Physics; BS 2015)

Ron looked at the effects of tides in young planetary systems and is now a grad student in Astronomy at UCLA .

Justin Grace (Physics; BS 2015)

Justin examined the mathematics of Hohmann transfer orbits in the context of co-orbital, horseshoe orbits. This is motivated by proposals of several groups seeking to make a reality of Asteroid mining. The co-orbital population of Earth is one potential source of easy to reach asteroids. Justin is now a grad student at Michigan State .

Marcie Mun (Physics; BS 2016)

Marcie examined the statistical distribution of exoplanets in period and radius to see if there is any physical difference between systems which show multiple transitting planets and those which show only singles.
Chris O'Conner (Physcs; BS 2017)

Chris has looked at using planets in open clusters and star forming regions to better constrain tidal evolution, and studied how the presence of a giant planet on large scales affects the assembly of rocky planets on smaller scales. Chris is now a graduate student at Cornell .
Armen Tokadjian (Physics; BS 2018)

Armen did a project to examine how planets responded to mass loss, using polytropes and full evolutionary models. He examined the case for both hot and cold planets, and the effects of rotation. Armen is now a graduate student at USC .
Sasha Strelnikoff (Physics; BS 2018)

Sasha looked at the erosive and spin dynamics of asteroids subjected to a strong erosive wind. The goal of this project is to examine how the shapes of asteroids are affected if they spend any length of time in a red giant wind.
Cameron Dong (Physics; BS 2019)

Cameron looked at models for the formation of the Earth's moon, and how those would work if the Earth were instead at Venus' location, i.e. he is investigating whether there are mechanisms that favour the existence of a moon around Earth but not Venus. Cameron is now doing a PhD in Atmospheric Sciences at UCI .
Ian Wagaman (Physics: BS 2022)

Ian did a project using the newly released GAIA data to search for white dwarfs in binary systems. This had two applications. One was to identify white dwarfs in wide binaries that might make for an interesting SETI search (as discussed in a paper I wrote with Ben Zuckerman) and the other was to identify close white dwarf binaries with wide companions, which might make for an interesting sample undergoing Kozai-Lidov oscillations and collisions. Ian is now pursueing a masters at San Diego State.
Jacob Levine (Current student)

Jacob is starting a project on the signatures of binary planet perturbations in debris disks.
I am, of course, always willing to talk to prospective students about potential projects.

If I'm not around, it may be because I'm travelling. Here is my travel schedule:

Here is my academic family tree (advisors advisor and so on).