About Me

My name is Clarissa Do Ó and I am a third year Ph.D. candidate at UC San Diego Astrophysics, under the National Science Foundation and San Diego Fellowships. At UCSD, I am working with Prof. Quinn Konopacky on the Gemini Planet Imager's (GPI) adaptive optics upgrade and on studying the orbit fitting and dynamics of exoplanet systems. I earned my B.S. in Physics at UC Santa Barbara with a minor in Astronomy and Planetary Science. At UCSB, I worked with Prof. Ben Mazin on the MKID Exoplanet Camera (MEC) data reduction pipeline.

My research interest is in using data of directly imaged exoplanets to constrain the formation from their current orbital architecture.

In order to understand planet formation processes, I employ a variety of methods, such as using observational data from telescopes and upgrading instruments that will allow for the detection of more exoplanets (to see more about exoplanet direct imaging data and instruments, please go to my Research tab).

As a Brazilian-American, I am also an advocate for minority students in STEM, especially those of Latin American origin. Outside of the lab, I am passionate about coffee, ice skating, and Star Wars.

This is me observing with Keck's NIRC2 for some of my exoplanet orbit work!

And visiting the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii, where I got to see the Keck Observatory up close!


I am interested in the intersection of exoplanet instrumentation and observation. Detecting exoplanets involves developing cutting-edge instruments and post processing techniques. Here, I wrote a small summary of what are my interests and what I am currently working on for research. You can find my co-author publications here .

Exoplanet Orbits

Statistical Study of Planet Populations from Orbit Fittign

Using astrometry and radial velocitiy measurements of directly imaged exoplanets, it is possible to fit for these planets' orbits in order to constrain their orbital parameters. However, many of these planets have long periods, which means that we have a low phase coverage of their orbital arcs. This low coverage can lead to biases in their parameters from the orbit fits. I use observable-based priors - a new approach to orbit fitting which aims to reduce the parameter bias in low phase coverage orbits - to analyze the eccentricity of exoplanets at a population level. Understanding the eccentricity distributions of exoplanets can shed light on how they were formed. This work has been published in The Astronomical Journal. IOP ADS

Eccentricity posteriors of the HD 1160 b companion with 3 different priors+data combination.

Stability of Exoplanet Systems

Using astrometry for orbit fits and N-Body simulations, I am interested in constraining the stability of exoplanet systems. One system I am currently studying is HR 8799, the only directly imaged system with 4 gas giants. The HR 8799 system planets are believed to be coplanar and in 1:2:4:8 mean-motion resonance (MMR). Understanding the dynamics of exoplanet systems becomes important for understanding their formation as well as the long-term stability as new candidate planets are imaged in multiple-planet systems. This work has been published in The Astronomical Journal. IOP ADS

Direct imaging of the HR8799 System. Credit: Jason Wang/Christian Marois.


GPI 2.0

Currently, many of our observations for exoplanet detection are ground based (our Telescopes are on Earth and not in space). This means that the Earth's atmosphere can interfere on our images due to its turbulence. The atmosphere severely limits the power of large telescopes, because it distorts the incoming light (called a wavefront), generating something called wavefront error. This limitation led astronomers to develop a technology called adaptive optics (AO), which uses deformable mirrors to correct the turbulences introduced by the Earth's atmosphere (or correct for the wavefront error). The adaptive optics technology is constantly being improved, and is essential for ground based instruments that are searching for exoplanets.

I am working on the upgrade of the Gemini Planet Imager's (GPI) wavefront sensor. The upgrade involves building and testing a pyramid wavefront sensor. I have built the test source unit (TSU) for the wavefront sensor, which will allow us to test for the system's alignment. I have also tested the wavefront sensor's detector, an EMCCD camera - checking for its noise contributors and overall functionality. GPI 2.0 will be assembled and installed at Gemini North. I have an AO4ELT Proceeding on the test results for GPI 2.0's wavefront sensor EMCCD. arXiv

The Test Source Unit (TSU) for GPI 2.0's new wavefront sensor in our cleanroom after being assembled.


NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

The National Science Foundation Fellowship is a graduate fellowship which awards graduate students in STEM fields in the United States. The grant covers 3 years of stipend during a 5 year period. As a recipient of the award in 2020, I have decided to share my essays and essay reviews here. Also, feel free to email or message me with any questions.

Personal Statement

Research Statement


Some great resources on the essays and more information, which I used when I was applying, were Brandon Barker's website, Mallory Ladd's website and Alex Lang's website.

NASA ExoExplorers

As a NASA ExoExplorer, graduate students and postdocs get to participate in workshops, professional development sessions and get to give a talk to the broader exoplanet community. This program is an excellent professional development opportunity for early career scientists in the exoplanet field.


Astrobites & Astropontos

Astrobites is a website where graduate students from all over the world post summaries of astrophysics papers from arXiv. The website also includes posts on outreach, scholarships, diversity in astronomy and more.

I joined Astrobites in 2022 as an author. I am also joining Astropontos, its sister website in Portuguese.

Cosmic Tours

The UCSD Cosmic Tours are short planetarium shows given on a portable planetarium for K-12 schools and other outreach events. In the shows, spectators can travel across the Solar System and beyond to learn more about our Universe. I currently volunteer for Cosmic Tours.

Young Scientists Club

The Young Scientists Club is a series of science lectures and experiments for kids grades 3-6. The students participate in hands-on experiments on optics, fluid properties and more as they learn more about the physics concepts behind the experiments. I currently volunteer for the Young Scientists Club.



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