The first time Eileen Gonzales learned about brown dwarfs in her undergraduate stellar astronomy course, she felt the urge to know more about the unique objects that are not quite stars or planets, but lie somewhere in between. Today, Eileen wields her observational and theoretical expertise to assess the atmospheric features of these not-so-distant bodies. Examining brown dwarfs has led Eileen to compile an extensive reference manual for fellow scientists attempting to overcome intricate issues related to their observation. Her work serves as a solid starting point for interpreting the higher-quality data expected to come from the next generation of observatories.

In her fellowship, Eileen will inhabit the overlap between theory and observation to catapult understanding of exoplanet atmospheres to new heights. She will adapt the code of a tool named Brewster (originally tailored to study brown dwarf clouds) to address a more diverse array of atmospheric features and chemistries. She will also work to make Brewster open source, promoting the availability of optimal strategies for a new era of extremely large telescopes and the much-anticipated James Webb Space Telescope. Eileen’s endeavors will bring the field one step closer toward understanding the compositions of Earth-like exoplanets. Eileen received a Ph.D. in physics from The Graduate Center of The City University of New York in September 2020.

“I want to know everything about the diversity of brown dwarfs and directly-imaged exoplanet atmospheres. Detailed analysis of these bodies with Brewster will help us fill knowledge gaps about their complex atmospheres.

Denis Finnin, American Museum of Natural History