During an undergraduate summer research program at the California Institute of Technology, Samuel Yee helped develop software that has since been used by astronomers around the world and cited in hundreds of scholarly works. Now pursuing his Ph.D. in astrophysics, Samuel is preparing to deliver another breakout resource for planetary science: He leads the TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) Grand Unified Hot Jupiter Survey, a project using data from NASA’s TESS spacecraft, as well as spectroscopic observations from many more ground-based telescopes, to find and characterize hundreds of these gas giants. While Hot Jupiters were among the first exoplanets discovered decades ago, the way they formed remains perplexing.

During his fellowship, Samuel will combine new planetary data from his survey with that of previously known planets to build the largest-ever sample of Hot Jupiters, which may shed further light on their formation. With this statistically useful sample, he will study the distribution of Hot Jupiter radii, periods, and other properties with respect to those of their stellar hosts, as well as the geometric architecture of their solar systems and whether they include additional planets. Demographic trends surfaced through Samuel’s study are expected to provide clues as to when and how these exoplanets came to orbit their parent stars so closely—and establish fertile ground for further inquiry. Samuel will receive a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Princeton University in Summer 2023.

“One of the most exciting parts of my work has been putting together a large, statistical sample of planets to study trends across a population.”