Meet the Organizers

Questions? Comments? Concerns? You can contact the committee by e-mail at

If you would like to contact a member of specific subcommittee (indicated below) please indicate
that in the subject line: e.g. [Attn: Local] or [Attn: Bradley].

Daniel Angerhausen

I studied astrophysics at Uni Cologne, Stuttgart and Caltech and graduated from the German SOFIA Institute. I am a postdoc at RPI working on characterizing exoplanets from the large telescopes in Hawaii and Chile and the flying observatory SOFIA. I study the habitability of planets around M-dwarf stars. Looking forward to seeing some new and some old faces from the astrobiology circus.

Bradley Burcar

I am a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. My research focuses on prebiotic chemistry, specifically looking for polymerization reactions and mechanisms that could have led to the creation of an RNA World. This will be my fourth AbGradCon and I hope to make it the best one yet!

Kristin Coari

I am a third year chemistry graduate student at RPI. I am currently investigating prebiotic origins of life, focusing on an RNA world and the interactions of the nucleobases. This is my third AbGradCon and my first year as an organizer.

Emily Hardegree-Ullman

I study the composition of the interstellar medium as an astrobiology graduate student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Chester (Sonny) Harman

I'm a third year grad student at Penn State, and I study planetary atmospheres -- atmospheric chemistry, dynamics, terrestrial inputs, and loss processes. This will be my third year at AbGradCon, and my first as an organizer.

Brande Jones

I am a postdoctoral fellow working in the NAI Center for Ribosomal Origins and Evolution at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA. I currently use both molecular biology and biochemistry to investigate the molecular mechanisms employed by eukaryotic extremophiles in adapting to extreme environments. This is my second AbGradCon and RFG. I look forward to seeing everyone this summer!

Brett McGuire

I'm a 5th year graduate student, currently at Caltech studying prebiotic astrochemistry at the interface of laboratory physical chemistry and observational astronomy. I want to know what molecules and reactions lead to the formation of the amino acids and sugars we see in meteorites and comets. This is my third AbGradCon and first year as an organizer and I can't wait to meet everyone this summer!

Katja Nagler

I’m a second year PhD student in the Astrobiology Research Group at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne, Germany. The focus of my work is microbiology, as I am investigating the germination of Bacillus subtilis spores under high salt conditions.

Lena Noack

I'm a second year post-doc working at the Royal Observatory of Belgium. As part of the research program "Planet Topers," I investigate Earth and Earth-like planets with respect to their possible surface habitability. The main focus of my study is the possible existence and evolution of plate tectonics as well as continent formation.

Marina Raguse

I am a 2nd year PhD student working at the German Aerospace Center in Cologne, Germany. I am focusing my research on astrobiology, especially bacterial spores, and the development of a new sterilization method for space shuttles employing cold technical plasmas (plasmasterilization). This is my first AbGradCon, I’m looking forward to it!

Lucy Stewart

I'm a 4th year PhD student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where I study thermophilic methanogens from Axial Seamount, a deep-sea hydrothermal vent system off the coast of Oregon. I'm interested in the limits of life in extreme environments on earth. This is my second AbGradCon and first as an organiser.

Samantha Waters

Working towards her PhD in Microbiology at the University of Florida. Research project centers on low-pressure microbial response and adaptation.

Mehmet Yesiltas

I am currently a graduate student in Department of Physics at University of Central Florida. I am investigating relationships and spatial relations of organics with minerals in meteorites through Infrared and Raman spectroscopy. Results of this research has bearings in the question of how life arose on Earth from simple precursors.