Dr. Dennis Bodewits (Associate Professor)
Dennis Bodewits is an associate professor of Physics at Auburn University. Born in Hoogezand-Sappemeer, the Netherlands, I studied experimental physics and astronomy at the University of Groningen. I got my Ph.D. after writing a dissertation on charge exchange emission from solar wind ions interacting with cometary atmospheres at the Center for Advanced Radiation Technology (KVI-CART) at the University of Groningen. Being awarded a NASA Postdoctoral Program fellowship I moved to Washington DC and started observing comets and asteroids with the Swift space telescope at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Between 2010 and 2018 I was a member of the Small Body Group at the University of Maryland, where I got involved in the comet fly-bys of the Deep Impact and Stardust-NEXT missions, and in the Rosetta mission that orbited comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for over two years. I joined the Physics Department at Auburn University in 2018. The IAU honored me by assigning asteroid 10033 the formal name 'Bodewits' in 2017. Fun fact: I am one out of a dozen people who ever flew a man-powered helicopter (the University of Maryland’s Gamera II).
Dr. Kumar Venkataramani (Postdoctoral Scientist)
I am a post-doctoral scientist in the physics department, Auburn University. I was born and brought up in the city of Mumbai, India. I have always been a night-sky enthusiast right from schooling days in Mumbai. I completed my PhD in physics from Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar. All of my research work was carried out at Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, India. My PhD thesis work was to study the gas and dust abundances in various comets as a function of their distance from Sun. This was done by monitoring and measuring the amount of emissions from various molecular and ionic species seen in the optical spectrum of the comets. My research work included observing comets and asteroids using ground based telescopes.
As a post doctoral researcher, I am involved in the project to study comet 9P/Tempel 1. The images of this comet were aquired using the comet specific narrow band filters in the medium resolution instrument of the Deep Impact Spacecraft. I will also be involved in projects to study some of the other comets in the UV region of their spectra, where we see a lot more emissions from different molecules in the coma.
Apart from research, I really like to travel and explore new places. Its pretty exciting to learn about different cultures and to understand the way in which people think about various aspects of life. I am also a nature admirer and I love animals (especially cats).
Dr. Emamnuele Bonamente (Postdoctoral Scientist)
During my academic career, I moved from high-energy astrophysics, where I obtained a first PhD in γ-ray astronomy with the Fermi observatory searching for dark matter emission, to zero-energy environmental engineering, where I obtained a second PhD focusing in renewable sources for energy efficiency and mitigation of global warming before being appointed assistant professor in applied and environmental physics.
My deep interest and motivation in understanding the physics governing what surrounds us, and especially that beyond unknown processes, led me to this new adventure in the field of cometary science. I am trying to understand the details of the mechanisms triggering high-energy (X-rays) emission from comets as an effect of the interactions with the highly-charged ions emitted by the sun, which represents a direct monitor of the solar wind and an experimental investigation of not yet well understood atomic processes, and UV-optical emission produced when comets are exposed to intense sunlight, which helps us understanding the conditions in which these primordial objects formed.
Zexi Xing (Visiting Graduate Student)
Zexi Xing is a Ph.D. student in the department of physics at the University of Hong Kong. I have a general interest in physics, especially astrophysics, and currently focus on Ultraviolet and X-ray observations of comets and asteroids. Abundance, activities and history of the small bodies are intriguing for me. The Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory is my great friend. In 2018 I got my B.Sc. in astronomy from Nanjing University, where many plane trees and cats live pretty happily. In addition to research, I am a great fan of nature and street photography, I love running outdoors with music, I love taking planes, and I really love dogs!