Ryan J. MacDonald

I am a theoretical astrophysicist researching the atmospheres of extrasolar planets. Based at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, England, I am developing new computational techniques to characterise the atmospheres of these distant worlds using ground and space-based telescopes.

My PhD research focuses on deriving the chemical composition, temperature structure, and cloud properties of exoplanets ranging from gaseous giants to terrestrial worlds. The ultimate goal of this endeavour is to seek indirect signs of biological activity on habitable planets, and thereby answer profound questions about our place in the Universe.

Prior to joining the exoplanet research group in Cambridge, I completed a Master’s Degree in Physics at Oxford University. Whilst there, I investigated designs of thermal-Infrared instruments for a proposed European Space Agency (ESA) sample return mission to the moons of Mars, in addition to serving as a data analyst during the later stages of ESA’s Venus Express mission.

In late 2019, I will be joining the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University as a research associate.

Alongside research, I am an active science communicator and strong advocate for widening involvement in STEM education and research. In addition to radio, TV, and podcast interviews, I am a freelance writer for the New Scientist and regularly give talks in schools, astronomical societies, and science fairs - if you are interested, please do drop me a message!