Megan E. Schwamb

Contact Information:

Gemini Observatory, Northern Operations Center
670 N. A’ohoku Place
Hilo, Hawaii, 96720, USA
mschwamb.astro ‘at’

Abridged CV below. Full CV can be found here.


  • June 2011 – Ph.D., Planetary Science – California Institute of Technology, Thesis: ‘Beyond Sedna: Probing the Distant Solar System’, Advisor: Michael E. Brown
  • June 2008  – M.S., Astrophysics – California Institute of Technology
  • May 2006 – B.A., Physics – University of Pennsylvania, Summa Cum Laude with Distinction in Physics

Awards & Honors

  • 2017 – Carl Sagan Medal for Excellence in Public Communication in Planetary Science (American Astronomical Society, Division for Planetary Sciences)
  • 2015 – WIRED Innovation Fellow
  • 2013-2015- Academia Sinica Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • 2012 – Kavli Fellow, Kavli Frontiers of Science Japanese-American Symposium
  • 2010-2013 – NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • 2009 – NASA Earth and Space Sciences Fellowship
  • 2006 – Reed Fellowship, California Institute of Technology
  • 2005 – Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship
  • 2002-2006 – University Scholar Honors, University of Pennsylvania

Employment & Positions Held

  • 2016 – present – Assistant Scientist, Gemini Observatory
  • 2013-2016  – Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Academia Sinica
  • 2010-2013 – Postdoctoral Fellow, Yale University
  • 2009 – Graduate Teaching Assistant, California Institute of Technology
  • 2006-2010 – Graduate Research Assistant, California Institute of Technology
  • 2005 – Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Summer REU Program Intern

Professional Activities and Service

  • 2017-present Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) Solar System Science   Collaboration (SSSC) Co-Chair – the SSSC is one of the eight active LSST Science Collaborations
  • 2016-2017 Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS) Light Curves Team Lead
  • 2016-present AAS World Wide Telescope Advisory Board Member
  • 2015-present Comet Hunters Project Scientist
  • 2015-present Comet Hunters Science Team Member
  • 2015 – organizer of 2nd ASIAA Hack Day (Taipei, November 2015)
  • 2015 –  Member of the Taiwan Canada-France Hawaii Telescope Time Allocation Committee
  • 2015-present Col-OSSOS (the Colours of the Outer Solar System Origins Survey) Optical Team Manager
  • 2014-present – Member of the Zooniverse collaboration – The Zooniverse builds and hosts the largest collection of online citizen science projects
  • 2014- present – Member of the Col-OSSOS collaboration
  • 2014 – 2015 –  Postdoctoral Fellow Representative to the ASIAA Colloquium Committee
  • 2014-present – Science organizing committee member of the 2015 East Asia Young Astronomer Meeting (Taiwan, Spring 2015)
  • 2014-present – Collaboration member of the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS)
  • 2014- Co-organizer of Astronomy Citizen Science Teacher workshop (March 2014).
  • 2013-present – Assisting with coordination of traditional character Chinese translation effort of Zooniverse citizen science projects by the ASIAA EPO Office
  • 2013-2014 – Co-organizer of the workshop on Citizen Science in Astronomy, Taipei (March 2014)
  • 2013-present – Planet Four Science Team Member
  • 2013-present – Member of the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope (LCOGT) Time Allocation Committee allocating time on the 2-m Faulkes telescopes and LCOGT 1-meter network
  • 2012-present – Co-organizer of the Hack Day at the winter American Astronomical Society Meetings (January 2013, 2014, 2015,2016)
  • 2012-2013 – Co-organizer for Yale Center for Astronomy & Astrophysics Seminar Series
  • 2012 – Co-organizer of the 2013 NSF Astronomy & Astrophysics Fellows Symposium (Austin, January 2013)
  • 2011-2013 – Member of the Yale Time Allocation Committee allocating time on WIYN,   SMARTS, and Keck telescopes
  • 2011-2015 – Planet Hunters Project Scientist
  • 2010-2013 – Member of the La Silla-QUEST Kuiper belt Survey
  • 2009-2010 – Co-organizer for the Caltech Planetary Science Department Seminar
  • 2006-2009 – Member of the Palomar Distant Solar System Survey

Research Activities

  • Studying the small body populations of the outer Solar System – Dr. Schwamb has participated in the development, day-to-day operations, and analysis of two-wide field optical surveys (Schwamb et al 2009, 2010; Rabinowitz, Schwamb et al 2012, 2013) to study the orbital and physical properties of the planetesimal populations in the Kuiper belt and inner Oort cloud. Dr. Schwamb is also assisting the outer Solar System group at ASIAA on the development of a strategy for a potential Solar System survey component to the Hyper Suprime-Cam (HSC) Survey on the Subaru Telescope. HSC is the largest wide-field camera on a 10-m class telescope with a 1.5-deg field-of-view in diameter
  • Colours of the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (Col-OSSOS) Col-OSSOS is a follow-up program for the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS). OSSOS is an on-going large program on the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope to produce a sample of ~500 Kuiper belt objects with well-characterized orbits obtained from a survey where the discovery biases and losses are fully known and understood. Col-OSSOS is a Large Program on Gemini North began in the fall of 2014, measuring the optical and near-infrared colors of the brightest OSSOS discoveries (m_r’ < 23.5). Col-OSSOS will create an unprecedented dataset combining surface color information, orbital dynamics, and population statistics to probe the origin and history of the Kuiper belt. Dr. Schwamb is participating as manager of the optical data reduction team and as part of the observing team.
  • Using citizen science to study the seasonal processes on Mars – Dr. Schwamb is an active science team member of the Planet Four  project. Dark features develop on the top of Mars’ Southern polar CO2 ice sheet, as it thaws during the spring. Carbon dioxide geysers loft dust and dirt through cracks in the ice sheet to the surface where it is believed the surface winds subsequently sculpt the material into the hundreds of thousands of dark fans and blotches observed from orbit. It is difficult if not impossible for computer algorithms to accurately identify individual fans and blotches that are easily spotted by eye. Planet Four (launched in January 2013) enlists citizen scientists to examine high-resolution images, from the HiRISE camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and map the sizes, shapes, and orientations of these features. Planet Four will produce a seasonal wind map of the South Pole of Mars and reveal how it changes over time and is impacted year to year by the Martian climate. Schwamb is consulting on the data reduction strategy to combine multiple classifier markings to identify the fans locations and shapes, and she also participating in the effort to assess the accuracy and recall rate of Planet Four at identifying fans present in the HiRISE images.
  • Using citizen science to probe the inventory of exoplanetsThe Planet Hunters citizen science project utilizes human pattern recognition to identify exoplanet transits in the publicly released Kepler dataset that may be missed by automated detection algorithms. Visitors to the Planet Hunters website are presented with a randomly selected 30-day lightcurve segment from one of the 160,000 Kepler target stars and mark potential transits by drawing boxes in the interface. Launched in December 2010, more than 290,000 people worldwide have contributed over 22 million classifications. Dr. Schwamb is a founding member of the Planet Hunters science team. The success of a citizen science approach has been demonstrated with the project’s 9 planet candidate co-discoveries with the Kepler effort (Batalha et al. 2012; Lintott, Schwamb et al. 2013), over 30 unknown planet candidates not previously identified by the Kepler team (Fischer, Schwamb et al. 2012; Lintott, Schwamb et al. 2013; Wang et al.+ Schwamb 2013; Schmitt et al. + Schwamb 2014a,b), a confirmed Jupiter-sized planet in the habitable zone of a Sun-like star (PH2 b; Wang et al. + Schwamb 2013), and the discovery of PH1 b a transiting circumbinary planet in a quadruple star system (Schwamb et al. 2013).

Outreach Activities

  • Frequent contributor to the blogs, for the Planet Four  project and previously for the Planet Hunters project, communicating to the public the progress and science resulting from these citizen projects as well as gathering guest posts by other scientists detailing their research activities in associated fields.
  • Co-Founder of Astronomy On Tap public astronomy lecture series consisting of short talks by astronomers and planetary scientists held in local bars in New York City, and currently serving as the organizer of the Taipei, Taiwan branch. The aim is to bring astronomy to the people, rather than having them come to the astronomers, in a more relaxed setting to talk about interesting science results. In addition to New York City and Taipei, branches of this series now exist in several US cities including: Washington DC, Columbus, Seattle, Lansing, Rochester, and Austin, USA, Toronto, Canada, and Santiago, Chile. Organized Astronomy on Tap one-night event in Chicago, USA (September 2014).
  • Co-founder and co-curator of the curated twitter account Astrotweeps, launched in January 2014, where each week a different astronomer or planetary scientist is featured, taking over the twitter account and engaging with over 2500 followers. Organized in December 2014 two google+ on-air hangouts with astronomers and planetary scientists featured on astrotweeps to discuss for the general public key astronomy and planetary science news and events of 2014 (138 combined views
  • Organized two public Google+ Hangouts In July 2015 with Kupier belt experts, planetary scientists, and science communicators to discuss the science behind and the results coming from New Horizons fly-by before and after the spacecraft’s closest approach to the Pluto system (in total 171 live and 1690 recorded views)
  • Assisted with the 2013 Academia Sinica public open house and helped create and run a citizen science in astronomy booth as part of the ASIAA contribution.
  • Co-organized a teacher workshop in Taipei, Taiwan as an addition to the Citizen Science in Astronomy workshop (March 2014) to introduce citizen science and present lessons plans and ways student can be engaged in Zooniverse projects.
  • Assisted with the coordination of the translation effort by the ASIAA Education and Public Outreach Office to translate astronomy-based Zooniverse ( citizen science projects to traditional character Chinese. To date five projects Galaxy Zoo, Planet Four, Disk Detective, Sunspotter, and Radio Galaxy Zoo have been translated. 
  • Contributed popular science articles to Sky & Telescope Magazine, Planetary Society blog, and Space Exploration News (Sen)


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