Keighley Rockcliffe

Academic Appointments

PhD Student in Physics and Astronomy

Through my previous work for Goddard Space Flight Center’s Heliophysics Directorate studying the Sun and its influence on the heliosphere, I became curious about how other stars influence the environment and objects surrounding them. By joining Dr. Elisabeth Newton’s research group, I’ve been able to channel that enthusiasm towards the analysis of exoplanetary systems. I use the light transmitted from a star through the atmosphere of an orbiting exoplanet to learn more about that atmosphere’s height, composition, and make conclusions about whether the gas is escaping. The evolution of exoplanet atmospheres is closely tied to many factors in many uncharacterized ways, such as the age of the host star. Through my time at Dartmouth College, I will be working towards constraining how planet and stellar properties influence atmospheric escape.

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Pursuing higher education in particular gives students a greater chance of developing moderate to severe levels of anxiety and depression. One of my goals is to help abate mental health stigma and make STEM a healthier and more accessible field. Starting on a smaller scale at Dartmouth, I am a part of the Graduate Student Life Committee, who organize and participate in mental health awareness and education events. Over my years here, I hope to learn ways I can increase the impact of my mission at Dartmouth and on larger scales within STEM education and professions.  This includes helping reshape how STEM is introduced in early public education, where many students become discouraged because they feel they aren't capable or smart enough. Doubt is a powerful enemy. I believe part of the solution is providing encouragement and learning resources to young students through mentorship that focuses on giving under-represented minorities, including but not limited to people of color, women and humans with disabilities, role models in STEM. Joining the Dartmouth ManyMentors organization, who shares this vision, gives me the opportunity to implement this locally and learn what works best for supporting and including all students in STEM education.

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M.S. in Astronomy, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
M.S. in Physics, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute