Peter Gao's research interests include planetary atmospheres; exoplanet characterization; planet formation and evolution; atmosphere-surface-interior interactions; astrobiology; habitability; biosignatures; numerical modeling.

His arrival in September 2021 continued Carnegie's longstanding tradition excellence in exoplanet discovery and research, which is crucial as the field prepares for an onslaught of new data about exoplanetary atmospheres when the next generation of telescopes come online.

Gao has been a part of several exploratory teams that investigated sulfuric acid clouds on Venus, methane on Mars, and the atmospheric hazes of Pluto. He also creates models that apply knowledge of photochemistry and cloud physics to help characterize the atmospheres of exoplanets and brown dwarfs, which are sometimes called failed stars, because they are not able to sustain hydrogen fusion.

He earned his Ph.D. in planetary science from Caltech and spent a year as a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow at NASA Ames Research Center, three years at UC Berkeley as a 51 Pegasi b Postdoctoral Fellow, and one year at UC Santa Cruz as a NHFP Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow. His bachelor’s degree in physics is from the University of British Columbia, Canada.

Scientific Area: 

Explore Carnegie Science

Marilyn Fogel
May 13, 2022

Washington, DC—Marilyn Louise Fogel, an isotope geochemist whose work touched on a broad scope of subjects ranging from astrobiology to paleoecology and climate change to human health, died Wednesday after a prolonged battle with ALS. She was 69.

Fogel spent 33 years as a Staff Scientist at Carnegie’s research campus in Washington D.C., at what is now the Institution’s Earth and Planets Laboratory, as well as a short stint as a visiting scholar at Carnegie’s Department of Plant Biology in California. She developed the use of stable isotopes to trace astrobiological, biogeochemical, and ecological processes, including the impact of climate variation on

April 26, 2022

Washington, DC— New work from an international team led by Carnegie’s Alexander Goncharov synthesized a new material composed of six nitrogen atoms in a ring, bringing scientists one step closer to creating a long-theorized, pure-nitrogen solid that could revolutionize energy storage and propulsion. Their findings published last week in Nature Chemistry.

Nitrogen is one of the most common elements in the universe and is abundant in biochemical compounds.  It is notable for the extremely strong triple bond of its elemental form—when two nitrogen atoms join to form N2 gas. This attraction is so strong that despite the abundance of nitrogen in

Shishaldin Volcano courtesy of Daniel Rasmussen
March 10, 2022

Washington, DC— New work from a Smithsonian-led team, including Carnegie’s Diana Roman, revealed what could be the most-important factor controlling the depth at which magma is stored under a volcano, upending long-held theories about the molten material’s upward journey through the Earth’s crust. Their findings—which could inform the creation of detailed models that more accurately forecast volcanic eruptions—are published in Science.

“Dozens of volcanoes around the world are either actively erupting or existing in states of unrest right now, putting millions of people at risk,” Roman said. “Improving our ability to forecast

Guided diamond nanothread synthesis illustrated by Samuel Dunning
March 2, 2022

Washington, DC— As hard as diamond and as flexible as plastic, highly sought-after diamond nanothreads would be poised to revolutionize our world—if they weren’t so difficult to make.

Recently, a team of scientists led by Carnegie’s Samuel Dunning and Timothy Strobel developed an original technique that predicts and guides the ordered creation of strong, yet flexible, diamond nanothreads, surmounting several existing challenges.  The innovation will make it easier for scientists to synthesize the nanothreads—an important step toward applying the material to practical problems in the future. The work was recently published in the Journal of the

No content in this section.

Established in June of 2016 with a generous gift of $50,000 from Marilyn Fogel and Christopher Swarth, the Marilyn Fogel Endowed Fund for Internships will provide support for “very young budding scientists” who wish to “spend a summer getting their feet wet in research for the very first time.”  The income from this endowed fund will enable high school students and undergraduates to conduct mentored internships at Carnegie’s Geophysical Laboratory and Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington, DC starting in the summer of 2017.

Marilyn Fogel’s thirty-three year career at Carnegie’s Geophysical Laboratory (1977-2013), followed

CALL FOR PROPOSALS

Following Andrew Carnegie’s founding encouragement of liberal discovery-driven research, the Carnegie Institution for Science offers its scientists a new resource for pursuing bold ideas.

Carnegie Science Venture grants are internal awards of up to $100,000 that are intended to foster entirely new directions of research by teams of scientists that ignore departmental boundaries. Up to six adventurous investigations may be funded each year. The period of the award is two

Andrew Steele joins the Rosetta team as a co-investigator working on the COSAC instrument aboard the Philae lander (Fred Goesmann Max Planck Institute - PI). On 12 November 2014 the Philae system will be deployed to land on the comet and begin operations. Before this, several analyses of the comet environment are scheduled from an approximate orbit of 10 km from the comet. The COSAC instrument is a Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer that will measure the abundance of volatile gases and organic carbon compounds in the coma and solid samples of the comet.

The Anglo-Australian Planet Search (AAPS) is a long-term program being carried out on the 3.9-meter Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) to search for giant planets around more than 240 nearby Sun-like stars. The team, including Carnegie scientists,  uses the "Doppler wobble" technique to search for these otherwise invisible extra-solar planets, and achieve the highest long-term precision demonstrated by any Southern Hemisphere planet search.

Ana Bonaca is Staff Member at Carnegie Observatories. Her specialty is stellar dynamics and her research aims to uncover the structure and evolution of our galaxy, the Milky Way, especially the dark matter halo that surrounds it. In her research, she uses space- and ground-based telescopes to measure the motions of stars, and constructs numerical experiments to discover how dark matter affected them.

She arrived in September 2021 from Harvard University where she held a prestigious Institute for Theory and Computation Fellowship. 

Bonaca studies how the uneven pull of our galaxy’s gravity affects objects called globular clusters—spheres made up of a million

Peter Gao's research interests include planetary atmospheres; exoplanet characterization; planet formation and evolution; atmosphere-surface-interior interactions; astrobiology; habitability; biosignatures; numerical modeling.

His arrival in September 2021 continued Carnegie's longstanding tradition excellence in exoplanet discovery and research, which is crucial as the field prepares for an onslaught of new data about exoplanetary atmospheres when the next generation of telescopes come online.

Gao has been a part of several exploratory teams that investigated sulfuric acid clouds on Venus, methane on Mars, and the atmospheric hazes of Pluto. He also

Anne Pommier's research is dedicated to understanding how terrestrial planets work, especially the role of silicate and metallic melts in planetary interiors, from the scale of volcanic magma reservoirs to core-scale and planetary-scale processes.

She joined Carnegie in July 2021 from U.C. San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where she investigated the evolution and structure of planetary interiors, including our own Earth and its Moon, as well as Mars, Mercury, and the moon Ganymede.

Pommier’s experimental petrology and mineral physics work are an excellent addition to Carnegie’s longstanding leadership in lab-based mimicry of the

Johanna Teske became the first new staff member to join Carnegie’s newly named Earth and Planets Laboratory (EPL) in Washington, D.C., on September 1, 2020. She has been a NASA Hubble Fellow at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, CA, since 2018. From 2014 to 2017 she was the Carnegie Origins Postdoctoral Fellow—a joint position between Carnegie’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (now part of EPL) and the Carnegie Observatories.

Teske is interested in the diversity in exoplanet compositions and the origins of that diversity. She uses observations to estimate exoplanet interior and atmospheric compositions, and the chemical environments of their formation