Sciences and Exploration Directorate

Brief Bio


Hello! My name is Natasha Latouf, I am an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, and I attend George Mason University for graduate school. I am a contractor here at NASA GSFC while I finish my doctoral degree, researching exoplanet atmospheres. In my spare time, I enjoy tossing a ball with my corgi, Olive, and reading - I am currently making my way through the Game of Thrones books!


To learn more about me, please visit my personal website.

Research Interests


Exoplanet Atmospheres

Solar System: Atmospheres

I currently study the simulation of exoplanet atmospheres, and how to model them to reflect the data we have from Hubble and are projected to receive from the James Webb Space Telescope. I spend most of my time using the Planetary Spectrum Generator (PSG) to implement these simulations, and will also be embarking on benchmarking the noise and coronagraphy modeling within PSG.


Telluric Mitigation Methods

Solar System: Extrasolar Planets

For the duration of my undergrad, my research focussed on how our atmosphere (i.e. tellurics) induces error on ground-based observations of precise radial velocities (PRVs). I also studied how effective the most common telluric mitigation methods are in reducing or eliminating these errors, particularly the Cross-Correlation Function (CCF) and forward modeling. This work was initiated as a part of the NASA probe mission concept study EarthFinder with a solar star model initially, and I have continued this work to study an M2 dwarf model.

Positions/Employment


Research Assistant

George Mason University - Fairfax, VA

October 2017 - May 2021

I wrote and implemented python scripts to quantify the amount of error induced on radial velocity measurements due to Earth's telluric interference. I also aided in observations using the George Mason University telescope, the Keck telescopes, and NASA's infrared telescope using iShell.


NSF Graduate Research Fellow

George Mason University - Fairfax, VA

September 2021 - Present

I currently focus on simulating exoplanet atmosphere models using the Planetary Spectrum Generator (PSG). I will also be working on benchmarking the noise and coronagraph models within PSG for varying telescopes and instrument, including the next generation of Great Observatories.

Teaching Experience


I was a tutor for student athletes within George Mason University for two years, teaching various mathematics and physics courses as requested. I also ran my own private tutoring business offering tutorship in mathematics and physics. These courses included: Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1 & 2, Pre-Calculus, Calculus 1, 2, & 3, Discrete Mathematics, and Physics 1 & 2 (both calculus and non-calculus based).

Education


I attended George Mason University for both my undergraduate and graduate studies. I graduated with honors in 2021 from George Mason with my Bachelors of Science in Physics, with a concentration in Astrophysics. I am currently in attendance for my doctorate degree, which will be in Physics with a concentration in Astrophysics as well.

Awards


Dean's Award for Excellence in Service- Spring 2021

Awarded as a result of Spectrum's significant impact in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Science, and George Mason University during its first year.


Carol Litchfield Endowment Scholarship - Fall 2019

Award for a notable College of Science undergraduate.


OSCAR Student International Travel Grant - Fall 2019

Competitive travel award offered through George Mason OSCAR to support travel to international conferences.


SCI-STEPS Summer Research Program - Summer 2019

Research assignment for minority undergraduates.


OSCAR Student Research Grant - Summer 2018

Competitive research award offered through the George Mason Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR) to support undergraduate student research.


Eugenie V. Mielcsark Scholarship - Spring 2018

Award given to an accomplished undergraduate in the Department of Physics at George Mason University.


George Mason Excellence Scholarship - Spring 2017

Renewable yearly for 4 years


George Mason Green & Gold Scholarship - Spring 2017


George Mason University Dean's List - Fall 2017, Spring 2020, Fall 2020

Only given to undergraduate students.

Grants


NSF Graduate Research Fellowship - National Science Foundation - Awarded: 2021-03-23


Dates: 2021-09-01  - 2024-09-01

Amount $34,000 stipend + $1

Other Professional Information


I am a co-Founder and current leader of the student organization Spectrum at George Mason University. This is a group dedicated to the enhancement of underrepresented groups in STEM based on the co-founders personal experiences. We feature a mentorship program for every career stage, a Professional Development Lunch Talk Series, a Faculty Mentoring Committee, and we wrote the Code for Professional Ethics currently in place within the Physics and Astronomy Department. If you are interested in this program, please feel free to reach out to me!

Talks, Presentations and Posters


Invited

George Mason University College of Science Faculty Meeting

March 2021

Invited talk to present an introduction of co-founded group Spectrum and successful initiatives.


Other

Twinkle and the Next Generation of Exoplanet Scientists

October 2021

Talk Title: Precise Radial Velocities and Effectiveness of Telluric Mitigation Strategies


237th American Astronomical Society Conference

February 2021

Poster Title: Characterizing and Mitigating Telluric Absorption in Precise Radial Velocities: Dependence on Spectral Type


235th American Astronomical Society Conference

February 2020

Poster Title: Precise Radial Velocities and Effectiveness of Telluric Mitigation Strategies


Extreme Precision Radial Velocities IV

April 2019

Talk Title: Effects of Tellurics in PRVs and Effectiveness of Mitigation Strategies


Undergraduate Research Symposium

September 2018

Poster Title: Impact of the Earth’s Atmosphere on Radial Velocities


Selected Public Outreach


Featured Exoplanet Commentator - STEM in 30

April 2020 - April 2020

Emmy-nominated program for students produced by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Featured in Episode 7, Diamonds in the Sky: Stars and Exoplanets.


Departmental Student Liaison

April 2022 - Present

Coordinator of prospective student tours, student advisor and guide.