We are pleased to announce the first annual Emerging Researchers in Exoplanet Science Symposium (ERES) to be held May 28 & 29, 2015 at the Pennsylvania State University in University Park, PA. ERES is aimed at early career scientists (graduate student, postdoc, advance undergraduate) working in all branches of exoplanetary science and related disciplines (e.g., brown dwarfs, protoplanetary disks, star formation, related instrumentation and theory). Its purpose is to give these emerging researchers the opportunity to present their research to an interested audience, to provide plenty of opportunities to network with peers, and to enhance collaborations within exoplanet community. ERES will be held annually on a rotating basis between partner institutions. The 2015 meeting is graciously supported by the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute

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Registration is now closed.


Videos of Talks and Panels

Conference Poster

Abstract submission is now closed. However, you may submit a late abstract as a poster presentation here

Travel and Accommodations

The conference rate booking deadline has passed.

Presentation Guidelines

Oral Presentations

All talks are 10 minutes long, with an additional time for Q&A.
Your talk session chair will contact you soon to provide information on how to submit your materials for presentation.
You will need to submit your presentation materials to your session chair at least one week before your talk.

Poster Presentations

Posters should be no more than 36 inches in width and 44 inches in hight.
All poster presenters will also be invited to give a Poster Pop presentation. Poster Pops are 60 second long advertisements for your poster that you will present to the rest of the participants.
Your Poster Pop can have one slide with information on your research or a figure that will be shown while you talk about your poster.
Your poster session chair will email you soon with more details about how you can submit your slide for your poster pop. Submissions must be made at least a week before the poster session.
Any queries about the poster session or Poster Pop session can be sent to eresposterpop@psu.edu

Future Meetings

2016 Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
2017 Yale University, New Haven, CT

Frequently Asked Questions

Latest News

The first of the panel discussions is about how to write effective followship and grant applications. Members of the panel have all applied for, and won, various fellowships. They will be talking about what makes an application effective, important things to think about, and other tips and tricks learned through experience.

The slides from this session will be posted to the ERES website soon.

Our panelists are:

James Owen, Hubble Fellow (JO)
Laura Kreidberg, NSF Graduate Research Fellow (LK)
Brian Hicks, NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow (BH)
Daniel Forman-Mackey, Sagan Fellow (DFM)

JO: The panelists are starting this session with a short presentation describing key points, specifics for each of their respective fellowships, good proposal writing, anonymous advice from selection panelists, and a Q&A. Participants can grill them further at lunch.

LK: Grad student fellowships are useful, super useful. There are no downsides. Guaranteed funding, no need for TA work if you don’t want them. Also good practice for writing more proposals in the future.

The NSF GRFP is open for senior undergraduates, and first and second year graduate students. Apply all three years, even if you don’t have something your senior year! The application is pretty hefty, so start early and take your time. Two main criteria: intellectual merit (how good is the science?) and broader impacts (why is the useful to others?). Broader impacts can be presentations, conferences, public outreach, STEM mentoring, volunteering, tutoring, etc. Winning an NSF GRFP makes you eligible for the NSF GROW, which allows you to continue your research in a foreign country.

BH: A fellowship program versus a regular postdoc position. Pro: you set your own research program, you control your research budget, more ‘prestigious’. Cons: you’re on your own (potentially no supervisor). For ‘open’ fellowships, you can take the fellowship anywhere, while an ‘institutional’ fellowship is directly associated with a particular place that you then have to work at. There are open fellowships available around the world.

Statistics: ~300 new PhDs per year, ~100 fellowships available per year.

For the NPP, there are multiple application periods per year, and there are around 200 fellows in residence at any one time. There is a good stipend, benefits, and lasts for 2-3 years (the last one is funding dependent).

Advice: communicate directly with the adviser for the research opportunity before writing the proposal. Read the requirements carefully before you begin.

Go to the NASA Postdoc Website for a list of available positions.

DFM:Talking about the Sagan, Hubble, and Einstein fellowships, since they are pretty similar. Sagan is specifically for exoplanets, the Hubble is for anything, and Einstein is more for cosmology/extragalactic. Duration is up to 3 years, good benefits, good research travel budget, good stipend.

Must propose 3 institutions on your applications, institutions can only accept one of each per year. The success rate is about 1:17.

JO: General proposal advice: keep things clean and concise, don’t list too many “in prep” papers, start early and take your time. Know your audience and tailor specifically, do not submit the same one multiple times. DO NOT BREAK OR BEND THE RULES.

A good proposal will explain why your idea is relevant, what is your idea an dhow you will do it, and why you specifically are the right person to do this project. Also, make sure that your idea is achievable on a reasonable timescale. Why is your proposed institution the right one for the project?

Proposals are not academic papers! They are advertisements for your project and for you. Make your proposal stand out, as reviewers read thousands of pages per season. Get feedback (early) from people both in and outside of your field.

Anonymous advice solicited from reviewers:
1. promise something new, not more of the same
2. don’t make the panel angry. Don’t say how awesome you are, don’t use too many acronyms, make the proposal easy to read, follow the rules.
3. have diverse letter writers. An observer, a theorist, and if possible someone outside of your university.
4. “At the very least, the proposal should not be irritating!”

And now the Q&A portion:

(note: I wasn’t able to actually see the panelists as they were answering questions, so I apologize to the panelists if I attributed one of their comments to someone else.)

Q: Why to ask a paper reviewer to write your letter? What will they bring?
A: JO: The context and scientific relevance of your work

Q: Are there any fellowships that aren’t only for US citizens.
A: LK and DFK: yes, Hubble and Sagan, and some others. Look carefully at the requirements

Q: How do you decide whether or not you should have a direct supervisor for your project or be your own boss? So, postdoc or fellowship?
A: DFM and JO: It is mostly dependent on how confident you are in being your own boss and what your personal preference for work environment is. If you have a good independent project and don’t need firm structure to work, then a fellowship would work. You could also apply for a fellowship under an advisor’s project (“I want to take my fellowship and work on this project of yours. What do you think?”). If you like working more in a larger group, then perhaps a postdoc would be better for you.

Q: What else should you include in your proposal?
A: Audience member who is also a Sagan Fellow: make sure that you talk about successful presentations you have had, AAS or the like. Show that you can communicate your work effectively. When you lay out your project, be specific as to how you will accomplish your goals. Most Hubble and Sagan fellowships don’t go to people right out of grad school; they mostly go to people who already have one or more postdocs under their belts. The extra postdoc first shows your additional experience.

Q: Thoughts on resubmitting the same project with some modifications to make it better?
A: Audience member who is also an NPP: you can do that for sure, take a close look at the comments from reviewers that you get back and you can iterate over the reviews until it works. If the comments look good, it might just be that there was no funding for you that cycle on you’re on the waiting list. Keep trying!

Q: The NPP proposal is significantly longer than Hubble or Sagan. How does that change your writing style and focus?
A: BH: It’s about 15 pages, which is about the length of a research paper. You don’t need to change your focus, but you can elaborate more on points that you have to be concise on in your other proposals. You could also add sections, provided that they don’t confuse your proposal.

Audience comment: Europe is nice. There is also a higher success rate (~1:4) than most US fellowships and the salaries are competitive.

Audience comment (NPP winner, also NSF GRFP and NSF GROW winner): The NSF Postdoc Fellowship application is larger than the NPP application, is due soonest, and can serve as a “first draft” or first attempt at an NPP. You can even maybe get comments back on that proposal before you have to submit your NPP and get more feedback.

Q: For open fellowship, is it a bad idea to choose as your first choice your PhD institution?
A: JO: the anonymous feedback was split. If you choose it, have a really good reason why you pick that. Personal reasons (like two-body problems) are indeed good reasons. Panel members are people too, and some institutions will even break the “one fellow” rule for a personal reason. If the main reason for an institution is a personal reason, go ahead and put that in your proposal directly. Lame reasons just look lame. Of course, you always need a really good reason for any of your institutions.

Q: How does having a postdoc help or hurt one’s chances at a position in industry?
A: (question was put off until tomorrow career panel, so this is my general impression): It probably doesn’t hurt to gain more experience that can transfer over. You can gain skills during this time that may be attractive to an industry company. You can make the switch at any time, don’t be intimidated.

Q: Time management? How do you balance everything, when you have dozens of applications?
A: JO: Very carefully. Make a clear schedule for yourself, and realize that you need a good solid few months of time to get everything done, and you probably won’t be getting much research done at the same time. Start thinking about your projects early, and talk to professors about it before you start writing.

This session was a lot of fun. There were a lot of fellowship and grant winners in the audience who shared their multi and varied experiences in applying for and winning grants. Great audience participation!

Now, it’s time for lunch, where we will be continuing the discussions on applying for and winning fellowships.

Our first session of planetary atmosphere talks is chaired by PSU graduate student Natasha Batalha (who is also our live-tweeter for the symposium).

Hubble Space Telescope Spectroscopy of WISE Detected Brown Dwarfs (Adam C. Schneider, University of Toledo)

The Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) is an all-sky survey which is maps the sky in four infrared wavelengths, ranging from the near-visible to the mid/far infrared wavelengths. As such, WISE has been very very good at detecting very cool sources that appear bright in the infrared, like brown dwarfs. He’s talking today mostly about Y dwarf stars, which are the coolest known brown dwarfs (but still aren’t planets). Y dwarfs range from around 400 K to 250 K, which is near the temperature of Earth! Y dwarfs pop out in WISE images as bright green points, and we’ve found around 20 of them so far.

“Why WISE Ys?” These anchor our low-temperature spectroscopic models, places where “regular” stars don’t emit a lot of light. Y dwarfs, because they are near the temperatures of planet can help us understand exoplanets, too. They are the “missing link” or the “crossover” objects. They are so faint that we can’t really detect them using ground based telescopes, so we go to space with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and WISE.

They use HST to take spectra of their Y dwarf spectra in the Y-band (Why the Y-band of Wise Ys?) because as you get to lower and lower temperature, there is a very distinctive absorption feature in the ammonia band that appears in the Y-band in spectral models. Their question is: as you go to lower temperatures, why does that absorption feature appear? Where does that ammonia go? Their answer is vertical mixing: the ammonia that would normally appear in the upper layers of the Y-dwarfs and cause that ammonia line are getting mixed into the lower layers, and so there is less ammonia than is expected. However, simultaneously fitting the near- and mid-infrared images is still an issue, as they want to fit all distinctive features at the same time. That issue is ongoing.

Hot Jupiter Atmospheres Revealed with HST/WFC3 (Laura Kreidberg, University of Chicago)

Transit modeling code: batman = Bad-A* * Transit Model cAlculatioN, currently in development and online at github. If you help with testing and debugging, Laura Kreidberg will buy you a beverage.

They are observing HJs WASP-43b and WASP-12b using an HST program called “Follow the Water.” As the name suggests, they are looking at water bands of these HJs to get precise water abundance estimates. They find about 0.5-.75 times the solar water abundance in WASP-43b. This is important to know because water is a key molecule in planet formation. WASP-43b also very nicely follows the mass-metalicity relation for planets, that more massive planets have fewer heavy elements than less massive planets.

WASP-12b, also a HJ planet, is the “canonical” carbon rich planet, where the C/O ratio is greater than 1 (recall from the last session, most stars have C/O around 0.5). Previous estimates of the C/O ratio are based on emission spectra, and they are taking a transmission spectra (though the atmosphere), and detected a very strong water feature. This is strange because with a high C/O ratio, most of the oxygen should be bound up in carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide, not water. From their transition spectra they find that an oxygen rich model is more accurate than a carbon-rich model. For this, a C/O < 1 is a million times more likely than C/O > 1 (i.e. an oxygen rich model is much much more likely than a carbon rich model).

In the future, they (and we) need to study the whole planet to characterize the atmosphere (not just the temperature/pressure structure, or the atmosphere) but the whole thing at once. We need to reconcile our results from the emission spectra and the transmission spectra. They want to break the degeneracy between models of temperature/pressure and composition. Hopefully breakthroughs will be forthcoming!

Emission and Phase Curves from 3D Exoplanet Atmospheres (Y. Katherina Feng, UC Santa Cruz)

Katherina (a recent PSU graduate) is talking about the emission from the planetary atmospheres using 3D model atmospheres. This will help us figure out what kinds of spectra we will be seeing when the James Webb Space Telescope finally launches, and so that we can characterize our future observations. JWST will be much more precise and accurate in the infrared than current telescopes, so we need to understand what these planet should look like in JWST spectra. Doing 3D models will help us figure out what limits our accuracy in detection and modeling, and what biases are inherent in our 1D models.

They are testing a new 3D radiative transfer code “SPARC” to test the opacity grids against the 1D models, and have found that there are some discrepancies. If they use the same opacity grids as the 1D models do, the 3D code and the 1D codes match more closely. They apply this to WASP-43b and find that the assumed inclination of the planet has little effect on the spectral solution (they then assume an edge-on system).

When they look at the atmospheres in a variety of wavelengths and phases, they see that atmospheres are really complex 3D structures, and a 1D analysis of the atmosphere may not cut it. First, is there a difference between the day and night sides of the planets? the 3D model does show differences between the day and night side profiles. Is the 1D model biased towards the day side? Yes, it is. Our measurements in should essentially be an average of the day and night side, but 1D models are more biased towards day side values. They plan to test the limits of exoplanet spectroscopy using their new 3D models and ferreting out the biases in our 1D retrievals.

We’re going to be changing gears and talking about how to write a successful fellowship or grant proposal with our Fellowship Panel, made up of four successful fellowship winners.

The first session of participant talks is chaired by PSU graduate student Taran Esplin and will focus on characterization of planet hosting stars.

Accessing the fundamental properties of young stars (Ian Czekala, Harvard Smithsonian CfA, @iczekala)

Talking abuot two techniques for measuring young stars and their protoplanetary disks. What are stellar properties of near solar mass stars before they hit the main sequence? How do we find this out? Stars start out above and to the right of the MS, and stars of different masses take different paths and take different amounts of time to travel from their initial positions to the MS. Lower mass stars take the longest time to hit the MS from their initial positions.

Technique 1: protoplanetary disk radio intereferometers. 3D structure model to get temperature, density, and velocity as a function of stellar mass. Then imaging across a CO line reveals the kinematic fingerprint of the star. This can dynamically weigh single stars in their “teenage” years.

Technique 2: using stellar spectroscopy to get the stellar mass. Get a spectrum of a star and you can usually get pretty good info on the effective stellar temperature and stellar radius. But, right now we only really use parts of the spectrum that we are very familiar with. What happens if we can fit an entire large chunk of the spectrum? With a more complex spectral model to use in fitting we need to be more careful with the statistical methods we use to guarantee a good fit (need to be more careful than a simple chi^2!). Essentially, do the residuals between your model and your data resemble white noise? If not, you may need to query a covariant noise matrix to model your noise residuals more carefully.

In the future, we can combine dynamical masses from ALMA/SMA. The current sample is about 20 stars, and they hope to calibrate the early HR diagram.

Defining the Range of Chemistry for Exoplanet Interiors (John M. Brewer, Yale)

While we know of a lot of exoplanets, there are very few of them where we know their masses accurately. The problem is actually getting an accurate stellar surface gravity, which affects estimates of radius and temperature, since the parameters are degenerate.

They use Spectroscopy Made Easy (SME) to get a better handle on surface log(g) of the planet. They use over 7000 lines to get this better estimate. By comparing to stars that have asteroseismic surface gravities they can test whether their SME procedure works better than their previous procedure. SME does a substantially better jobs, excepting a few stars that are rapid rotatrs, which mess up the comparison.

There doesn’t seem to be any trends in derived log(g) with other parameters, meaning that the SME method works well across a wide range of stars (excepting rapid rotating stars). However, they want to now use this to get stellar compositions, and they do this using asteroid spectra to test the accuracy of the methods (this assumes that we know the composition of the Sun).

For asteroids, they test their method using the ratio of carbon to oxygen (C/O), since that ratio is highly dependent on initial Solar composition. In their stellar sample, they find very few high C/O ratio stars (very few diamond planets, boo).

Exoplanet properties require accurate knowledge of the host stars, and the stellar log(g) is a key parameter to characterizing the star. Look out for a catalog to be published with all these parameters soon

Broadening our Horizons on Short-Period Stellar and Substellar Companions with APOGEE (Nicholas Troup, UVA)

Serendipitous science from APOGEE. About 1/2 of stars are in binary (or higher order systems) and on average every star has 1 planet. Companions can be stellar binaries, planets, or brown dwarfs. Brown dwarfs are the “missing link” between stars and planets. A strange phenomenon is the “brown dwarf desert”, which means that there is a lack of BD companions within 5 AU of a solar-type star. This is strange, because we have lots of Hot Jupiter planets very close to their stars and at near-BD masses.

APOGEE was meant as a galactic structure survey, but has been very useful for exoplanet discovery and characterization. The APOGEE RV Companion Survey takes stellar spectra and can pull out stellar parameters and abundances in the APOGEE samples. Their spectral model is exceptionally good at fitting their APOGEE spectra to get stellar properties. They can then measure radial velocities and search for planets. They have to go through a rigorous false positive analysis to weed out the “not planet planetary-like signals” from the real planets.

About half of their stellar sample is giant stars, which really haven’t been searched for companions all that much. They have a galactic distribution of stars, looking both inwards and outwards from the galactic core. While their sample is mainly in the thin disk, there are a few thick disk and halo stars, as well as globular cluster and open cluster stars. After first analysis they have about half of their sample as stellar or BD companions, and the other half are potentially planetary companions. Using their methods they hope to “map the shores” of the BD desert, and build a galactic map of companion frequency.

Re-characterization of a gravity-darkened and precessing planetary system PTFO 8-8695 (Shoya Kamiaka, University of Tokyo)

This system is a T-Tauri star + hot Jupiter. The transits that were observed in 2009 and then in 2010 don’t have the same shapes, and they are trying to figure out why that is.

The star is rotationally deformed - that is, it’s rotating so fast that it more closely resembles a football than a soccer ball, and the central band of the star is gravity darkened, while the poles are brightened. There is also a precession of the orbital axis angle relative to the stellar spin axis, called “nodal precession”. Together, these two phenomena can explain the time-variable transit lightcurves. Since this system fits this scheme so well, it’s an ideal benchmark case for this model. Previous work in this area does not favor such a synchronized state (the two components of the model varying in a synchronized way) with the serious misalignment found in PTFO 8-8695.

Their method of characterizing the synchronicity of the nodal precession and the gravity darkening is expected to unveil the properties of younger or hotter stars, which are known to be more rapidly rotating than older or cooler ones.

Next session is the first of our Planetary Atmospheres talks. Stay tuned!

Good morning everyone and welcome to ERES 2015 hosted here at PSU! My name is Kimberly Cartier and I will be your live-blogger for the duration of the conference.

Thanks to everyone who is tuning in both here and at the Twitter Feed #ERES15. We’re beginning in only 15 short minutes and the ballroom is already filling up with excited (and sometimes sleepy) emerging researchers in exoplanet science, interesting posters, and slightly nervous organizing committee members. Your live blogger is perched in the front row, ready to capture all of the amazing discoveries presented by our participants and comment on how the day is going.

Our opening remarks will be starting in 15 minutes. Dr. Alex Wolszczan, the PSU astronomer who discovered the first exoplanets in 1992, will be introducing PSU Provost Dr. Nick Jones, who will be giving our opening remarks.

(personal note: I apologize in advance for any typos that occur while I’m live blogging. I will go over the posts at the end of the day and proofread more)

And here we go! Opening remarks: Dr. Wolszczan has taken the microphone and welcomes everyone to the PSU Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds and to ERES 2015. He has now passed things on to Provost Jones.

Provost Jones also welcomes everyone to the Nittany Lion Inn and to Penn State. Penn State has traditions that are over 100 years long, and a long history of outstanding philanthropic events. And now it’s the first of something great, and this tradition will continue at Cornell next year, and Yale after that. We bring together young researchers from around the country to share their work and network with peers that they wouldn’t otherwise meet.

Provost Jones remarks that he grew up and studied in an age of discovery – Voyager 1 and the first looks at the far reaches of our solar system. Now we are looking at the solar systems in the far reaches of the galaxy, places that most people can’t fathom.

Communication between peers is one of the main goals of this conference. The people that you meet early in your career at conferences like this can impact your life in the future in unexpected ways, and you shouldn’t take the value of networking for granted.

Penn State has had a long history of amazing discoveries in the sciences - from the fundamental feeding mechanisms of plants decades ago, to more recent amazing discoveries by grad students and undergraduates in the Department of Astronomy. Some of our discoveries are even getting international recognition. Discovery is one of the fundamental principles of Penn State, and the university is very proud to host the first ERES conference and pushing the boundaries of groundbreaking discoveries.

Participation in research at any level is valuable, and no contribution should be taken for granted. Despite the large size of this university, this place is a tight nit community, especially in the sciences. Collaboration on research can only further discoveries all around.

Many thanks to Dr. Eric Ford and the organizing committee for putting together this amazing conference. And many thanks to all of the participants for traveling from near and far to join us today.

Dear ERESS 2015 Participants,

At long last the meeting is here! We hope that your travel has been going smoothly as you arrive in State College.

Here are last minute details for the start of things tomorrow:

Check-in will start at 7:45 and opening talks will start at 8:30. Please arrive early to pick up your individualized registration packet, including your name tag and lunch tickets (if purchased in advance).

The full schedule and abstracts can be found at http://eres-symposium.org/schedule.

The meeting room in the Nittany Lion Inn is Ballroom D&E. For those who purchased lunches, there will be a lunch buffet in the Nittany Lion dining room.

Poster presenters may put up their posters on Thursday morning, either during registration (7:45-8:30 am) or the first coffee break (9:45-10:15am). Please ensure your poster is removed by the end of the Friday afternoon coffee break (3:30pm).

Please do NOT use pushpins on the freestanding poster boards and use only velcro (provided) for hanging posters on the freestanding poster boards. Just to make things confusing, push pins (also provided) should be used to hang posters only on the sound panels on the walls of the meeting room, while masking tape (also provided) can be used on the bare walls. Whew! If you’re unsure how to attach your poster, please ask someone from the organizing committee.

Speakers should have already contacted their session chair to make arrangements for projecting their presentation.

The official live tweeting hashtag is #ERES15 and we will be live blogging on the ERES web site. In the spirit of providing a supportive environment, we ask that participants only share photographs or videos of other participants or their presentations if they have obtained permission.

Since there were a lot of people who wanted to attend and couldn’t, we plan to post the talks online in the week following the meeting. If you are giving a talk, you will need to sign the media release in the registration packet and give it to your session chair or another member of the organizing committee. We will only post talks that have signed releases. If you would rather not have your talk posted online, just do not sign the release.

We will also be putting sign-up sheets for dinner excursions after each day’s sessions, lead by a Penn State participant, to some favorite dinner spots downtown. This will also keep us from overwhelming a single restaurant accidentally. You’ll be able to sign-up during the breaks.

If you have questions during the meeting, all organizing committee members have special badges to make it easy for you to get an answer.

We are looking forward to a great day of science and professional development tomorrow!

Best regards, The ERESS Organizing Committee