M. Darby Dyar

Kennedy-Schelkunoff Professor of Astronomy; Chair of Astronomy; on leave 2020-2021

Darby Dyar's research seeks to understand the distribution of hydrogen and oxygen throughout our solar system, using Mössbauer, reflectance, Raman, synchrotron, and LIBS spectroscopies as well as advanced machine learning technique for data processing and interpretation.She has published more than 260 papers in scientific journals and has been supported by grants from NASA and NSF totaling more than $10 million in the past decade alone. She served as a Participating Scientist on the Mars Science Laboratory mission.

Darby Dyer

Thomas Burbine

Visiting Lecturer of Astronomy
Thomas Burbine

Eileen McGowan

Visiting Assistant Professor in Astronomy

With an interest in planetary geology, Eileen McGowan has been active in research related to validating the existence of water on Mars by identification of putative water related landforms. She has also been working on a map of the Lachesis Tessera quadrangle on Venus and finds herself engrossed in its beauty and mystery. She has a great interest in finding out more and advocating for more missions to Venus.

Jason Young

Visiting Lecturer in Astronomy
Jason Young


Nicole Amrani

Academic Department Coordinator
Photo of Nicole Amrani

Laura Breitenfeld

Laboratory Technician

Kate Lepore

Research Laboratory Manager

Kate Lepore spends most of her time in the Mineral Spectroscopy Laboratory where she uses laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) to study the elemental composition of geological materials.One of the biggest projects in the lab is the compilation of a nearly 3000-sample LIBS dataset that can be used to improve calibrations for a variety of LIBS systems, including ChemCam on the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity.Kate is also available to assist students with other projects within the department.

Kate Lepore

Elizabeth Sklute

Postdoctoral Researcher

Elizabeth Sklute uses a combination of spectroscopy (VNIR, MIR, Raman, and Mössbauer) along with microscopy to investigate hyperthermophilic iron reduction of synthetic, nanophase, iron oxides in order to determine if biosignature could be detected on Mars.These synthetic samples are also used to investigate spectral variation with grain size, shape, and composition in the nanophase size regime.Elizabeth also uses Hapke radiative transfer modelling to calculate optical constants for common planetary materials while investigating the limitations of that technique.

Elizabeth Sklute