Sciences and Exploration Directorate

Avi M Mandell



Org Code: 693

Mail Code: 667
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Employer: NASA

Brief Bio

Dr. Avi Mandell is an exoplanet scientist in the Planetary Systems Laboratory at NASA Goddard; his research focuses on the characterization of extrasolar planets and the formation and evolution of planetary systems, with the specific goal of understanding factors that determine whether a planetary system can form habitable planets and what the characteristics of these planets will be. He works on analyzing observations of transiting and directly imaged exoplanets and circumstellar disks, including modeling spectra of planetary atmospheres as well as the dynamical evolution of planets and planetesimals during the formation of planetary systems, and he is the co-founder of the GSFC Sellers Exoplanet Environments Collaboration.

Research Interests

Exoplanet Formation & Characterization

Solar System: Extrasolar Planets

The study of planet formation and extra-solar planets utilizing Vis and IR spectroscopy of exoplanets and circumstellar disks, including new instrument and mission development as well as relevant theoretical simulations of planetary structure, formation and evolution.  


Research Scientist

NASA Goddard - Greenbelt, MD

July 2010 - Present

Research on the formation of planetary systems and the characterization of extrasolar planets from both an observational and theoretical perspective. Planning and operations for current and future instrumentation for space and ground-based telescopes.

NASA Post-Doctoral Fellow

NASA Goddard - Greenbelt, MD

October 2007 - July 2010

Near-IR spectroscopy of gas in circumstellar disks; NIR spectroscopic observations of exo-planet atmospheres; simulations of terrestrial planet formation in diverse system architectures 


Ph.D., The Pennsylvania State University, 2007

      Astronomy and Astrophysics, Dual Title in Astrobiology

- Thesis: “Effects Of Circumstellar Gas On Terrestrial Planet Formation: 

                              Theory And Observation”

   Advisors: Prof. Steinn Sigurðsson, Dr. Michael Mumma

B.A., Vassar College, Physics and Astronomy, 1999

          - Senior thesis advisor: Prof. Debra Elmegreen

Professional Service

Editorial Board of Universe Journal, “Planetary Sciences” Section (invited), 2021

Team Lead, JWST Rocky Planet Emission Initiative, 2020

SOC & LOC Chair, GSFC SEEC Symposium, 2019

Director, GSFC Sellers Exoplanet Environments Collaboration, 2017-2021

P.I., GSFC Exoplanet Modeling & Analysis Cente, 2017-Pres.

Lead & Member, LUVOIR Science Support Analysis Team, 2015-2019

Deputy P.I., Roman S.T. Science Investigation Team (P.I. Turnbull), 2015-2021

Team Lead, GSFC ATLAST Exoplanet Science Working Group, 2014-2017

Participant, JWST Transit Observing Planning Workshop, 2014

Member, NASA Headquarters Challenge Working Group: Are We Alone, 2013

Member, Red Team Review Panel, Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, 2012

Local Organizing Committee Member, GSFC Signposts of Planets Conference, 2010

Contributing Author, Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, 2010

Panel Member, GSFC Internal Research & Development Review Panel, 2010

Panel Member, NASA & NSF Program Review Panels, 2010-Pres.

Member, SOC, NASA Astrobiology Inst. FAR Seminar Series, 2008

Session Chair, Astrobiology Science Conference 2008

Member, Astrobiology Society Founding & Early Career Committees, 2007 – 2010

Chair, Organizing Committee, Astrobiology Graduate Conference, 2007

Special Experience

Previous or Current Missions and Instruments                                                             

Space Missions

      - WFIRST CGI Integral Field Spectrograph – Instrument Scientist

High-Altitude Balloon Missions

      - Observatory for Planetary Investigations from the Stratosphere (OPIS) - Co-P.I.

      - Gondola for High Altitude Planetary Science (GHAPS) – Deputy Project Scientist

Previous or Current Observing Campaigns

SOFIA Observatory (NASA)

      - Searches for exoplanet atmospheric signatures (P.I., Co-I.)                                     

Hubble Space Telescope (NASA)

      - Characterization of transiting exoplanet atmospheres (Co-I.)

Very Large Telescope Observatory (ESO)

      - Survey for organics in circumstellar disks (P.I.)                                                     

W.M. Keck Observatory (NASA/Caltech)

      - Multi-object spectroscopy of extrasolar planet atmospheres (P.I.)

      - Surveys for molecules in circumstellar disks (P.I., Co-I.)                                        

Hobby-Eberly Telescope (Penn State)

      - Spectroscopic search for signatures of exo-planets (P.I.)

Mission and Instrument Proposals or Studies                                                                

Large UV Optical InfraRed (LUVOIR) Surveyor – GSFC Science Team Lead, Member

      - Supported the development of the LUVOIR science case and study report

Transiting Explanet Explorer Balloon (TEEBall) – P.I.

      - Proposed to the Astrophysics Research and Analysis opportunity

Lunar Water Distribution (LWaDi) CubeSat - Institutional Lead

      - Proposed to the Small, Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration opportunity

Near Infrared Multi-Band Ultraprecise Spectrophotometer (NIMBUS) - Deputy P.I.

- Proposed as a 2nd generation instrument for the SOFIA Observatory