Meet Planetary Scientist Prof. Kerri Cahoy

Helen Hill | EAPS News
Friday, July 1, 2011

Cahoy joins EAPS this July as an Assistant Professor in the Planetary Sciences Program. Prof. Cahoy uses spacecraft radio systems to study the atmospheres and ionospheres of solar system planets.


Meet Planetary Scientist - Prof. Kerri Cahoy

Professor Cahoy has been something of a space-nut since probably some time in 4th grade. "There was a teacher I had named Mrs Rondeau who was very 'outside the box' creative especially, perhaps, for a public elementary school teacher in the rather conservative Connecticut town were I grew up. She had us do reports on the solar system and the planets and somewhere in the paste and construction paper I fell in love."

Cahoy's undergraduate mentor at Cornell was astronomer Steve Squyres so, as Cahoy describes it "I got into the space business early, when walking down the hallway as a sophomore in college I saw an advertisement for undergraduates to help design and build Mars Rovers". As a result she became involved in what ended up being Spirit and Opportunity, seeing those projects go from one Rover to being completely cancelled to being resurrected as two. As she reflects, "A first, valuable lesson in how the space business can go!".

These days Cahoy' s principal interest is the study of planetary atmospheres both within the Solar System but also of exoplanets. An electrical engineer by training, she also designs and builds instrumentation, in particular telescopes equipped with coronagraphs for direct imaging with coronagraphy on spacecraft. "I am interested in all bodies with atmospheres, although I also have an interest in the moon but more from an Earth-Moon evolutionary standpoint and planet systems architecture evolutionary standpoint. I'm also interested in Earth's atmosphere and climate and in remote sensing experiments to monitor climate change using radio signals from Earth-orbiting satellites."

Cahoy joins EAPS this July as an Assistant Professor in the Planetary Sciences Program. She received her BS in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University in 2000, and MS (2002) and PhD (2008) in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University working with the Mars Global Surveyor radio science team. She uses spacecraft radio systems to study the atmospheres and ionospheres of solar system planets. She is also interested in using space-based instrumentation, including cameras, telescopes, and coronagraphs, to search for and characterize planets outside our solar system. Cahoy spent 2006-2008 designing and building geostationary radio-frequency communication satellite payloads at Space Systems Loral, and from 2008-2010 as a NASA postdoctoral research fellow working on exoplanet mission design and simulations at the Ames Research Center. Most recently, Cahoy has been working with the MIT and Goddard Space Flight Center team on the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) dual-spacecraft mission to the Moon, scheduled to launch in September 2011. Professor Cahoy, holds a joint appointment in Aero-Astro.