Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Week Amongst the Alps

Combining two facets of my work - an animation of the Siding Spring Comet as seen from MSL in October of 2014 (It's the fuzzy thing which translates across the frame, keeping with the images). Recently, I had the opportunity to talk about the cometary dust that you can see here, rather than the dust in the martian atmosphere - my usual topic of study.

I've been to conferences all over the US, Canada and Western Europe. But never before have I attended an invitation-only conference. I've now had this honour, having just returned from the International Space Science Institute's Cosmic Dust Workshop, which was held in Bern, Switzerland over the past week. I was invited Andrew Schuerger, a convenor, friend and frequent collaborator of mine. Never having done this kind of conference before, I was unsure of what to expect. But I knew that regardless of how things went, that I would learn something new. Plus, Switzerland is rather pretty this time of year and the weather was nice.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Summer of Public Speaking

I won't deny it, I enjoy giving public talks about my science. Not only is it fun, but it also serves the cause of informing the public about exactly what it is that we do in planetary science and exploration and gives my research funders a good return on their investment. What more could a public servant such as myself want? I try to accomodate all the talks that are requested of me, but the summer is always easier to schedule than are other times of the year, so often you'll stand a better chance of hearing me when the weather is warm.

A Triumphant Return to the Radio

It's good to be back even if no one will be throwing my return a ticker-tape parade, such as the one pictured above for the Apollo 11 lunar astronauts (as photographed by Bill Taub for NASA's human space flight gallery ). With apologies, I just couldn't resist the spaceflight reference!

After a hiatus of nearly 4 years, I have decided to make (AFM) a regular part of my life again. Those of you who are avid listeners of YorkUniverse may have detected my dulcet tones twice over the last few months. I was a 'guest' of the show before graduating to 'co-host' last month and tonight I'll be co-hosting again this time with the master himself, Paul Delaney. Over the coming months you can expect more of the same. With luck I'll be able to inject my usual dose of planetary and spacecraft know-how into the discussion. It will be fun and informative! I hope you can join us.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A New Blog: PVL

Earlier this month I welcomed a 3rd member to the arcticsaxifrage blogging family. As some of you may already know from clicking on my profile over on the right, I've got my professional blog right here as well as a second blog where I review science fiction. To that I'm adding one more, but here's the catch - largely I won't be the author!

Instead, will talk about the work going on in my laboratory, the Planetary Volatiles Lab (PVL) here at York. As I indicate in the introductory post, the forum will be contributed by students and trainees in order to give them experience in writing for a general audience. There's good potential here for benefits all around, I think.

If you are curious what you'll find, there will be posts about our science and engineering (though don't expect us to give away our secrets pre-publication!) as well as posts on process (What is it like to write your first paper; to give your first conference talk?) and on interesting things going on in planetary, from a student perspective (i.e. what a fantastic paper in last month's Science!)

Through this new forum I hope that you will get a taste for what it is that we do, why we do it and how we do it. You'll also get to know a whole new cast of characters. However, it will be a moderated forum in which I have reviewed and lightly edited the content - so don't expect too much drama.

I hope you'll join us, and will cheer on my students, many of whom are writing this kind of content for the first time!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

State of the Blog (2015-2016)


This past year was all about expanding my boundaries . I wrote my first sole-author paper about some simulations of water moving on the Moon (a new body of work for me, scientifically speaking) and I teamed up with Ray Jayawardhana (Dean of Science here at York) to propose a $7 Million training program that brings together planetary scientists, exoplanetary astronomers and instrument designers. The program, which was selected, is called TEPS: Technologies for Exo/Planetary Science. It's going to be an exciting six years, as we ramp it up!

It finally happened. I've gone a whole year without posting once! I could use the usual excuses - (I've been busy!) - but the fact of the matter is that I just haven't felt that itch which is satisfied only by posting. Certainly, I've had plenty to write about, as you'll see below, and I'm actually coming around to the idea that it would be good for my career to talk more about my work and what my team is up to here in this space. But motivation is key, and that capital has all been allocated elsewhere this past year.

I went a bit crazy with grant applications and did quite well. Perhaps buoyed by my six papers from last year, everything I wrote in 2015 ended up being funded. I'd love to tell you all about it, but granting agencies have the right to announce successful applications and I respect that.

My success in the funding realm has led directly to a substantial increase in group size. Last year at this time, we were 1 Undergraduate, 1 PhD, 1 MSc and 1 PDF. Today, we have 5 Undergraduates, 6 MSc students, 1 PhD and 2 PDFs. While I am feeling the growing pains of that increase, it also means that we can research so many more things simultaneously! Indeed, our projects have proliferated to the point where there isn't a body in the solar system over 900 km in diameter which isn't the subject of someone's project.