Meet The Team

Dr Michele Trenti
  • Dr. Michele Trenti (University of Melbourne, Australia): Principal Investigator & Founder

    Michele is an astrophysicist with a broad range of research interests spanning from the formation of star and galaxies in the infancy of the Universe to high energy phenomena such as Gamma Ray Burst explosions and tidal disruptions of stars by black holes. He received his PhD in 2005 in Italy Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa and after traveling around the world he is now a Senior Lecturer and Australian Research Council Future Fellow at the University of Melbourne. Michele authored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications and has a strong experience leading astronomical observations from space. In fact he is among the most successful users of the Hubble Space Telescope as measured by observing time awarded as Principal Investigator (primarily for the multi-year Brightest of Reionizing Galaxies "BoRG" survey). As keen fan of the Star Trek Universe, with SkyHopper Michele now aims at developing a cubic spacecraft.

Dr Katie Mack
  • Dr. Katherine J. Mack (University of Melbourne, Australia): Founder, Media and Outreach Director

    Dr Katherine (Katie) Mack is a theoretical astrophysicist. Her work focuses on finding new ways to learn about the early universe and fundamental physics using astronomical observations, probing the building blocks of nature by examining the cosmos on the largest scales. Throughout her career as a researcher at Caltech, Princeton, Cambridge, and now Melbourne University, she has studied dark matter, black holes, cosmic strings, and the formation of the first galaxies in the Universe. Katie is also an active science communicator and is passionate about science outreach. As a science writer, she has been published by Slate, Sky & Telescope,, and other popular publications, and is a regular columnist for Cosmos Magazine.

Mr. Robert Mearns
  • Mr. Robert Mearns (University of Melbourne, Australia) Founder, Systems Engineer

    Rob Mearns graduated from the Master of Mechatronics Engineering at Melbourne University in 2016. During his time there, he was a founding member of the Melbourne Space Program, a volunteer, student based program designing and building a 1U cubesat from beginning to end. He served the program as the Engineering Director from the program’s conception 2016.
    During his time at the University of Melbourne he has worked in a number of research programs including the University’s RoboCup team and the University’s Radio Telescope. During his time in the Robocup team he designed a catadioptric omni-directional vision system for optimal object detection at varying distances, and contributed to the design of the team’s artificial intelligence algorithms. In his final year he redesigned and implemented a hardware and software non-linear control system for the University’s Radio Telescope.

Prof Michael Skrutskie
  • Prof. Michael Skrutskie (University of Virginia, USA): Founder

    Prof. Skrutskie directs a laboratory for the construction and application of instruments operating at near-infrared (1-5um) wavelengths. He was the principal investigator of the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS) and is now deeply involved in the space-based mid-infrared equivalent, WISE. Common scientific themes for both missions are the detection and characterization of sub-stellar objects (brown dwarfs) and delineating the structure of the Milky Way. The laboratory has recently delivered instruments for the world’s largest telescope, the Large Binocular Telescope, and for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

Christopher Burke
  • Dr. Christopher Burke

    Dr. Christopher Burke’s research focuses on the discovery and characterization of rocky extrasolar planets providing detailed answers to the question of “How many and what kinds of potentially habitable rocky planets like Earth exist in the Galaxy?” As a Support Scientist on NASA’s Kepler spacecraft mission at NASA Ames Research Center, he employs the unprecedented population of Kepler’s planet discoveries in order to answer this question. Understanding the potential for life inside and outside the Solar System is an area of immense curiosity to the scientific, engineering, philosophical, and sociological endeavors of humanity. SkyHopper’s extrasolar planet mission component will further identify new worlds to explore their potential for life.

Dr. Brad Cenko
  • Dr. Brad Cenko

    Brad is a Research Astrophysicist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD (USA), as well as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Maryland, College Park. His research interests are varied but largely fall under the rubric of observational time-domain astronomy, including gamma-ray bursts (he is currently serving as Acting Principal Investigator for the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Explorer), supernova, and tidal disruption flares (he is a member of the Palomar Transient Factory and Zwicky Transient Facility collaborations). He is also intent on developing instrumentation and software to enable novel observations of such time variable phenomena. He received his PhD in 2008 from the California Institute of Technology and before coming to Goddard was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley.

Jonathan Cirtain
  • Dr. Jonathan Cirtain

    Jonathan Cirtain is currently a Visiting Scholar with the Astronomy Department at the University of Virginia (UVA). Prior to joining UVA, he served as the Director of Science at the Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA, in Huntsville, Alabama. He began his NASA career in 2007 as an astrophysicist. He was project scientist for Hinode — an international mission to study the sun — and has led over a dozen the solar instrumentation development programs and technology development efforts.
    Dr. Cirtain was also the institutional principal investigator for the Solar Wind Electrons, Alpha and Protons instrument, or SWEAP, slated to launch no later than 2018 aboard the Solar Probe + mission to explore unprecedented regions in space, transforming our understanding of the sun and its effects on the solar system.
    Dr. Cirtain received his doctorate in physics in 2005 from Montana State University in Bozeman. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 2001 from the University of Memphis.
    Among his numerous past achievements and honors, Dr. Cirtain received the 2011 NASA Medal for Exceptional Achievement for his work developing solar physics instrumentation. This medal is awarded to any individual in the federal service for a significant, specific accomplishment or substantial improvement in operations, efficiency, service, financial savings, science, or technology which contributes to the NASA mission.
    He also was among four NASA researchers President Barack Obama named as recipients of the 2010 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, or PECASE. He was recognized for his outstanding research on basic physical processes observed in solar and space plasmas through innovative engineering and instrument designs. He also has contributed to dozens of research publications.
    In 2015, he was awarded the American Astronomical Society (AAS) Karen Harvey Award for his major contributions to the development of the next generation of solar instrumentation and his studies of the role of magnetic reconnection in the heating of the solar corona.

Jeff Cooke
  • A/Prof. Jeff Cooke

    A/Prof. Jeff Cooke is an astrophysicist leading research in high redshift supernova discovery, galaxy evolution and cosmic reionisation, absorption-line system investigation, and fast transient detection and study. He received his PhD from the University of California, San Diego in 2005 and is currently an Australian Research Council Future Fellow, an Associate Professor at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, and Chief Investigator for the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav). Jeff has pioneered the technique to detect and study supernovae in the early Universe and has discovered all of the farthest known supernovae. In addition, he has made ground-breaking discoveries in understanding the evolution of galaxies and has identified a new population of distant galaxies that are likely responsible for reionising the Universe. Furthermore, Jeff has conceived and developed the Deeper, Wider, Faster program to detect and study explosions on millisecond-to-hours timescales. The program searches this previously unexplored time domain by using state-of-the-art supercomputing, visualisation techniques, and by coordinating over 20 major telescopes worldwide and in space, from radio to gamma-ray observatories, to perform simultaneous deep, fast-paced observations and real-time analysis. Many fast transients are predicted to be associated with gravitational wave events.

Dr. Jochen Greiner
  • Dr . Jochen Greiner

    Greiner is an astrophysicist with prime interest in Gamma-ray astronomy, in particular Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRB), Microquasars, and X-ray binaries. While primarily being focused on multi-wavelength observations and data
    analysis, he also acts as principal co-investigator of the GRB-Monitor on NASA’s Fermi satellite. The most direct connection to Skyhopper comes from his background in designing, bulding and operating the GROND instrument, a dedicated multi-channel near-infrared/optical imager for GRB afterglow observations. Commissioned in 2007, GROND was the first to systematically observe GRB afterglows at near-infrared wavelengths.

Andrew Hopkins
  • Prof. Andrew Hopkins

    Prof. Andrew Hopkins is the Head of Research and Outreach at the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO). The AAO is Australia's premier optical and infrared telescope facility, and supports world-leading astronomy and technological research groups. Andrew's role includes coordinating the astronomy research and public outreach activities and expanding the research capabilities of the AAO. Andrew has 20 years experience in professional astronomy research, having held a Hubble Fellowship (University of Pittsburgh) and an Australian Research Council Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship (University of Sydney), before moving to the AAO in 2008. He received his PhD in Physics from the University of Sydney in 1998, is a Fellow of the Astronomical Society of Australia, and holds an Adjunct Professor appointment with the School of Physics at the University of Sydney. His research focuses on the evolution of star formation in galaxies over cosmic history. At the AAO he has been successful in doubling the size of the astronomy group and promoting gender equity through leading the AAO's Diversity Committee. Among other projects he is currently leading a major new 5-year observational program, the 'Taipan Galaxy Survey', using AAO's unique 'starbug' technology for high-precision parallel positioning of hundreds of optical fibres, in order to make significant breakthroughs in cosmology and galaxy evolution.

A/Prof. Michael Ireland
  • A/Prof. Michael Ireland

    A/Prof. Michael Ireland is an ARC Future Fellow at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA) at the Australian National University (ANU).

Dr. Sylvio Klose
  • Dr. Sylvio Klose

    Sylvio got his PhD in astrophysics in Jena, Germany, in the early 1990s. After working in the field of cosmic dust he moved into the GRB business some years later, which remained his main research interest since then. He is CoI of the GROND project, a multi-channel imager mounted at the 2.2m telescope on ESO/La Silla, Chile. Currently he is working at the Thuringer Landessternwarte (Thuringian State Observatory) in Germany.

Nikku Madhusudhan
  • Dr. Nikku Madhusudhan

    Dr Nikku Madhusudhan is a University Lecturer in Astrophysics at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge, UK. He is an expert in exoplanet research, and is the exoplanet lead of SkyHopper. His research interests include understanding the atmospheres, interiors, and formation conditions of exoplanets. He is widely known for pioneering the inverse techniques to measure atmospheric properties of exoplanets based on their atmospheric spectra observed using a wide array of observational facilities in space and from ground. His other notable studies include estimations of chemical compositions of exoplanetary atmospheres and interiors, and using them to investigate the formation mechanisms of exoplanets. Before his current faculty position at Cambridge he held postdoctoral positions at MIT, Princeton, and Yale (where he was the YCAA Prize Postdoctoral Fellow), after obtaining his PhD in Physics from MIT.

James Mason
  • Dr. James Mason

    Dr. James Paul Mason is a solar physicist and aerospace engineer, presently in the NASA Postdoctoral Program. He spent 7 years at the University of Colorado, Boulder (CU) working on several CubeSats as a student and then as a postdoc and instructor in the Aerospace Engineering Sciences department. He’s been involved in the CSSWE, MinXSS, QB50-Challenger, CU-E3, and MAXWELL CubeSat missions at CU; the INSPIRESat-1 international CubeSat mission, Guatemalan CubeSat; CubeSat programs at the Universities of Minnesota and Michigan; and now SkyHopper.

Peter McCollough
  • Prof. Peter McCollough

    Peter is an American astronomer, founder of the XO Project, and discovered of extrasolar planets. He earned a PhD in astrophysics in 1993 from the University of California, Berkeley. He is an adjunct professor of Physics and Astronomy at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore MD USA, where also he is employed by the institute that operates the Hubble space telescope. With the assistance of many colleagues, he led the development of an observational technique that has enabled Hubble to obtain infrared spectra of the upper atmospheres of transiting extrasolar planets. He is a member of the science team of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a NASA Explorer Mission due to launch in 2018.

Prof. Anna Moore
  • Prof. Anna Moore

    Prof. Anna Moore is the Director of the Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre at Mount Stromlo Observatory at the Australian National University (ANU).

Ian Parry
  • Dr. Ian Parry

    An astronomer who specialises in instrumentation. Personal scientific motivations are exoplanets and cosmology. His instruments relate to optical and NIR spectroscopy, multi-object spectroscopy (MOS), integral field spectroscopy, NIR imaging and coronagraphs. He has built instruments for the VLT, Gemini, the WHT, the AAT, the Hale 5-m, UKIRT and the INT.
    He invented the automated fibre positioner Autofib for multi object spectroscopy which was used on the AAT from the late 1980s and spawned many other similar multi object fibre systems at major observatories around the world including 2df on the AAT. Has also developed integral field spectrographs and NIR spectrographs and pioneered NIR multi object spectroscopy with optical fibres.

Rosalba Perna
  • Prof. Rosalba Perna

    Rosalba Perna is a theoretical Astrophysicist with a variety of research interests within High Energy, Cosmology, and Exoplanets. Among her main areas of focus are transient phenomena, and in particular gamma-ray bursts.
    Rosalba got her PhD from Harvard University; she was then a Harvard Junior Fellow and a Lyman Spitzer Fellow for a year at Princeton before joining the faculty at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
    After about 10 years there, she joined the faculty at Stony Brook University, where she is currently a Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
    During her career, she has received numerous awards, including the SIGRAV prize for her work on General Relativity. She was nominated APS Fellow in 2014, and has been invited to deliver over 100 talks at international conferences and Universities.

Prof. Michael Shull
  • Dr. Michael Shull

    Dr. Michael Shull is Professor of Astrophysics and past-Chair of the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He received his B.S. in Physics from Caltech (1972) and his Ph.D. in Physics from Princeton University (1976). He is an expert on both theoretical astrophysics and astronomical observations from space. He has been a science team member for two NASA projects: the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) on the Hubble Space Telescope. Shull has extensive experience in governance of complex projects and institutions and one highlight is his service as Chair of the Space Telescope Institute Council.

Stan Skafidas
  • Prof. Stan Skafidas

    Professor Stan Skafidas, from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, leads the Melbourne School of Engineering’s research in nanoelectronics and is the Director for Centre for Neural Engineering.

Nial Tanvir
  • Prof. Nial Tanvir

    Nial Tanvir is a Professor of Astronomy at the University of Leicester. His main areas of research are gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), the structure and content of nearby galaxies, the extragalactic distance scale, and galaxy evolution.
    In 2002 he was a member of the research group which won the Descartes Prize for their discoveries of GRB afterglows. In 2009, Prof Tanvir headed the team that discovered the infrared afterglow and measured the redshift of GRB 090423, the most distant event recorded to that date.

A/Prof. Randall Wayth
  • A/Prof. Randall Wayth

    Randall is a radio astronomer with a background in computer science and electrical engineering. He has broad astrophysical interests ranging from dark matter through to the birth of the first stars and galaxies. He has been involved with the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescope since 2005 and led the science commissioning and GLEAM survey teams. As a scientist with a technical background, Randall bridges the gap between the science and engineering communities and works on novel ways to use radio telescope instrumentation. More recently he has taken on the Director role for the MWA and is the Project Scientist for the SKA-Low Aperture Array Design Consortium. Randall has authored more than 120 publications in astrophysics and radio astronomy engineering.

Stuart Wyithe
  • Prof. Stuart Wyithe

    Professor Stuart Wyithe is Head of Physics at The University of Melbourne. His research focus is on the evolution of the earliest galaxies and how this evolution may be studied with the next generation of telescopes. Professor Wyithe was awarded his PhD from The University of Melbourne in 2001. He was a Hubble Fellow at Harvard University before returning to Australia in 2002. Professor Wyithe has received several awards recognising his contribution to cosmology, including the 2009 Pawsey Medal for physics from the Australian Academy of Science, and the 2011 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year. Professor Wyithe was Chair of the Australian National Committee for Astronomy and led development of the Decadal Plan for Australian Astronomy 2016-2025.



Australian Astronomical Observatory ∙ Australian National University ∙ Cambridge University ∙ Curtin University ∙ NASA Goddard ∙ Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics ∙ Space Telescope Science Institute ∙ Swinburne Institute of Technology ∙ Thüringer Landessternwarte Tautenburg ∙ University of Virginia