Zach Berta-Thompson is an observational astronomer, studying the physical properties of super-Earth and sub-Neptune exoplanets in an effort to understand the composition, evolution, and origins of these strange worlds. Zach earned his PhD from Harvard University, working with advisor David Charbonneau. As a graduate student, he helped develop a survey called the MEarth Project to find exoplanets transiting the closest, smallest stars in the Galaxy. MEarth’s first discovered planet, GJ1214b, has become one of the best-studied exoplanets smaller than Neptunes and a stepping stone toward the ultimate goal of studying the atmospheres of potentially habitable planets in the near future. Zach led a study of GJ1214b’s atmosphere with the Hubble Space Telescope, tightening constraints on its possible composition. As a Torres Fellow, Zach will continue to search for unique planets around nearby low-mass stars and use these exoplanetary laboratories to explore the complicated processes that shape all planets. He is excited about the prospects of TESS for enabling detailed studies of a menagerie of new worlds in the years to come.
The Torres Postdoctoral Fellowship Program was established by Juan Carlos Torres ’79 and Ann Kreis. The Torres fellowships bring postdoctoral fellows to MKI to pursue research in astrophysics, with a preference for research in extrasolar planets.
[See Zach’s MKI landing page for additional information, including representative publications.]