Meet the Planet Four Team: Meg Schwamb

Today we have the next installment of our Meet the Planet Four Team series, featuring Meg Schwamb from the Science Team.


Image credit: Sundar Srinivasan


Name: Meg Schwamb

What is your current position and where/institution?

I am currently an Academia Sinica Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics at Academia Sinica (ASIAA) located in Taipei, Taiwan.

Where are you originally from/where did you grow up?

I grew up on Long Island, New York in the United States (which means I’m obligated to get all the references to Long Island in Billy Joel songs)

What are your research interests/what do you work on?

I am interested in the fundamental questions of how our Solar System and others formed and evolved, as well as exploring the process of planet formation. I also study the outer Solar System, specifically the planetesimals that reside in the Kuiper Belt (the belt of icy bodies left over from planet formation orbiting  outside Neptune’s orbit) and beyond. I also am involved in the discovery and characterization of extrasolar planets (exoplanets), planets orbiting stars outside our solar system. In addition to being involved with Planet Four, I am a founding member of the Planet Hunters science team. Planet Hunters is a citizen science project enlisting the general public to search for the signatures of exoplanets in the public data from NASA’s Kepler mission.

In 3 lines explain your PhD thesis?

My thesis was studying the small icy planetesimals of the outer Solar System orbiting past Neptune in the region of the Kuiper belt and beyond. I used a wide-field survey to look for more objects like dwarf planet-sized Sedna, whose highly distant and eccentric orbit  cannot be explained by the current architecture of the Solar System. I didn’t find any new Sedna-like bodies in the outer Solar System, but I put constraints on the size and properties of the population.

Why are you interested in Mars?

I’m interested in studying the formation and evolution of all kinds of planets, dwarf planets, and planetesimals. What I find  so exciting about Mars is that it is one of our closest planetary neighbors, and we are reaching out and touching it! Mars is our best studied planet beyond the Earth. We are able to  explore the complex processes and evolution happening on Mars’ surface and atmosphere is such detail thanks to the rovers, landers, and orbiting spacecraft that NASA, ESA, and others have sent to the Red Planet.

What is your favorite movie?

One of my all time favorites is ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ and a more recent favorite is ‘Her’.

What is your favorite book?

Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

What is the song you currently can’t get out of your head?

My musical tastes are pretty eclectic and varied. There are always several songs in rotation I have playing on repeat since I can’t get them out of my head. There’s too many to just pick one song. I can settle on the top three of the moment: Sia’s “Chandelier”,  Fitz and the Tantrums’ “The Walker”, and Arcade Fire’s “We Exist”.

What three albums would you bring with you to a desert island?

Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs”,  How to Destroy Angels’  “Welcome Oblivion” and Nine Inch Nails’ “With Teeth”.

Favorite cocktail or beverage?

Recently it has been a well made Manhattan, but I always love a glass of good champagne.

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