Ashley Baker finds the current momentum and ambition of the planetary science community deeply inspiring. She is motivated by the newfound capabilities for comparing our solar system to others, and the technology-related challenges to observing distant exoplanets, which provide an opportunity to optimize current observational methods. As an experimentalist, Ashley designs and builds instruments that can detect certain molecules in the atmospheres of planets orbiting other stars. She also writes sophisticated software that models Earth’s atmosphere, helping to mitigate the impact of water molecules on ground-based observations of exoplanets.

In her fellowship, Ashley will become involved in endeavors to develop observatory-class instrumentation, enabling her to pursue a range of thrilling questions about exoplanet atmospheres. She will construct new instruments and techniques, then deploy her tools to perform a survey of exoplanets to more fully describe their atmospheres. Her work will not only cultivate more knowledge about distant worlds, but will also lead to more precise and efficient measurements of their atmospheric characteristics from Earth. Ashley received a Ph.D. in physics and astronomy from the University of Pennsylvania in May 2020.

“The planetary science field is in a pivotal period thanks to the discovery of a large number of exoplanets. Studying as many exoplanets from this unprecedented sample as possible is key, and depends on overcoming limitations of current technologies.”