Angie Wolfgang

An Unexpected Population: Data-Driven Modeling of the Evolution of Sub-Neptunes and Super-Earths
Contact information:
Fellowship status:
Starting year: 2015
Research Interests:

I study the recently-discovered class of extrasolar planets called “super-Earths”, whose sizes are between that of Earth and Neptune. There are no planets like them in our own Solar System, yet we have discovered thousands orbiting other stars. What these planets are like and how they came to exist is therefore an enormously exciting mystery. Given their vast numbers, I tackle these questions by developing data-driven models of the entire super-Earth population and applying them to the data from planet-hunting surveys like the Kepler Mission. Through the power of advanced statistical methods, I use these results to explore different scenarios for how these planets could have evolved to their current states. In doing so, I have begun to establish a framework for probabilistic planetary physics.

Education and Outreach Interests:

Understanding our universe through scientific inquiry is fundamentally a human endeavor. People take data; people construct theories; people interpret results; people communicate them to other people; and people ask new questions to further our collective understanding of how the natural world works. People also determine who participates in this process, whose ideas get funded, and who receives advancement opportunities and recognition. Unfortunately, unconscious bias and conscious prejudice are just as fundamental to the human condition as the curiosity which drives the scientific process; when people with power act on them, willfully or not, the result is systemic inequity in who gets to do science and be recognized as scientists. In an effort to: 1) illuminate and challenge these biases within ourselves; 2) understand how our colleagues' backgrounds and experiences with systems of oppression have shaped their scientific perspective and output; and 3) simply support our colleagues as people, I co-lead a discussion group called Toward a More Inclusive Astronomy (TaMIA). More information about this group, including a list of resources on these issues and a discussion forum you can join which supports having these conversations at your own institution, can be found at