Nearly all of my current research work is done in collaboration with UCSC graduate and undergraduate students.

Current Graduate Students

Javiera Guedes (Astronomy and Astrophysics 2006-) Javiera has done a detailed study of the formation and detectability of habitable planets in the Alpha Centauri AB system (Guedes et al. 2008, see also this National Geographic news article). She's currently participating in an observational search for these planets, and is also working on numerical cosmology with Prof. Piero Madau. Javiera's website is very informative.

Stefano Meschiari (Astronomy and Astrophysics 2006-) Stefano is a key member of both the Lick-Carnegie planet search team and the Systemic project. He has made major contributions to the Systemic Console, and has developed all of the code base for the System Backend. For his thesis research, Stefano is working on planet formation in protostellar disks. He recently discovered that gap opening in protostellar disks can be significantly modified by self-gravitating spiral instabilities. This work has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal Letters (Meschiari and Laughlin 2008). Stefano describes his research in more detail on his website.

Ryan Montgomery (Astronomy and Astrophysics 2005-) Ryan's early work was on the use of genetic algorithms to determine the pre-encounter trajectories of interacting galaxies (see Howley et al. 2008). His thesis research is exploring the formation and detectability of planets orbiting red dwarf stars. Here's a link to his website.

Former Graduate Students

Jonathan Langton (Physics 2005-2008) Jonathan developed hydrodynamical models of the surface flows and weather on extrasolar planets (Langton & Laughlin 2007, Langton & Laughlin 2008). He is using these models to interpret Spitzer Space Telescope observations of eccentric short-period extrasolar planets. He graduated in June 2008, and is currently employed in a postdoctoral postion at UCSC where he is further developing his hydrodynamical models of extrasolar planets.

Sarah Robinson (Astronomy and Astrophysics 2003-2008) During her time at UCSC, Sarah worked on a number of projects related to the formation and detection of planets. She developed efficient methods for locating metal-rich target stars for radial velocity surveys (e.g. Robinson et al. 2007). As a core member of the N2K survey, she discovered a number of extrasolar planets (Robinson et al. 2007). She identified the silicon effect in extrasolar planet host stars (Robinson et al. 2006). As part of her thesis research, she developed chemo-hydrodynamical models for protostellar disks that allowed her to construct a theory for the formation of Saturn. Sarah graduated in June 2008 and has accepted a tenure-track faculty position at the University of Texas, which she will take up after spending a year at JPL as a Spitzer Postdoctoral Fellow.

Current Undergraduate Students

Aaron Collett (Physics 2006-) Aaron is using large-scale numerical integrations to investigate the formation of terrestrial planet systems in orbit around metal-poor stars.

Ben Nelson (Physics 2008-) Ben is developing Monte-Carlo routines for the generation of planetary systems. When complete, these routines will be released to the community for use in planet-detection simulations.

Former Undergraduate Students

Aaron Wolf (Physics 2002-2006) During his time at UCSC, Aaron worked on a number of projects, including the analysis of the Gl 876 planetary system (Laughlin et al. 2005), the measurement of the radii of extrasolar planets (Laughlin, Wolf et al. 2005), the discovery of the transiting planet HD 149026b (Sato et al. 2005) and the detection of the Rossiter-McLaughlin effect for HD 149026b (Wolf et al. 2007). Aaron wrote the code for the early versions of the Systemic Integrator Console, currently the World's most widely used open-source software for planet detection and discovery. In 2006, Aaron won the Chancellor's and Steck awards for the best senior thesis at UCSC. He is now in the GPS Graduate Program at Caltech.

Konstantin Batygin (Physics 2006-2008) Konstantin used large-scale numerical integrations and synthetic secular perturbation theory to show that the orbit of Mercury can reach high eccentricities before the Sun turns into a red giant ~6 billion years from now. His paper (Batygin & Laughlin 2008) on this topic has been accepted for publication at the Astrophysical Journal, and has been the subject of several news articles (e.g. here and here). In 2008, Konstantin won the Chancellor's and Steck awards for the best senior thesis at UCSC. Konstantin will enter the Caltech GPS program in Fall 2008. He is currently studying tidal evolution in the Gl 436 planetary system.