Work Experience

(Any views expressed on my website are mine and do not reflect the the views of my employer(s).)

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee
Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics
Presidential Management Fellow
(February 2019 Present, will end August 2019)

I'm currently a Presidential Management Fellow on rotation to the House, after which I will return to the Air Force until (at least) the end of my fellowship. My role includes:

  • Assisting setting up committee and subcommittee hearings on space and aeronautics

  • Meeting constituents with interests in space, including students and other agencies

  • Working on specific projects of interest to the subcommittee and its members

United States Air Force
Presidential Management Fellow/Operations Research Analyst
(November 2017 February 2019, will return August 2019)

The home agency for my Presidential Management Fellowship is the Air Force, where I am a civilian operations research analyst in the Air Force Studies, Analyses and Assessments (AF/A9) directorate.

I was awarded the 2018 Air Force Outstanding Civilian Junior Analyst of the Year.

My main projects include:

  • Exploring the feasibility of using light attack aircraft in lightly contested environments. Along with the project co-lead, we briefed this in front of many high-ranking members of the Air Force, including the top four:

    • Secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson

    • Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Goldfein

    • Vice Secretary of the Air Force, Matthew Donovan

    • Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Stephen Wilson

  • Creating prediction tools to allow Air Force planners to estimate future aircraft attrition, the results of which have been briefed for several generals. This tool is intended to inform planners on the number of aircraft purchases necessary to maintain a healthy fleet over its lifetime.

  • Building a computational environment for the AF/A9 directorate in which we can perform advanced analytics on large datasets ("Big Data") to solve complex problems. We use Spark and Python for parallel data storage and computing.

  • Analyzing the relationships between aircraft service life, aircraft retirement, and other properties that might affect the retirement of aircraft.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellow at the Space Studies Board
(January 2017 April 2017)

As a Mirzayan Fellow at the Space Studies Board, my primary project during my three months was to write the proceedings of the workshop "Searching for Life across Space and Time" (see Publications). I also assisted in helping committee meetings and gained an understanding of how both the National Academies and science policy in general work.

Education and Research Experience

Yale University
(2012 – 2017)

Doctor of Philosophy, Astronomy (2017)
Master of Philosophy, Astronomy (2015)
Master of Science, Astronomy (2015)

Dissertation: "Planet Hunting: The Search for Hidden Planets in the Kepler Field"

  • Discovered two new planets (PH3 c and Kepler-150 f).

  • Detected 24 new planet candidates, which are likely to be (but not confirmed as) true exoplanets.

  • Found the first seven planet candidate system outside of the solar system (KOI-351, now Kepler-90, which now contains eight confirmed planets).

  • Identified six new stars in the neighborhoods of either distant planets or eclipsing binary stars (pairs of stars where one or both stars cross in front of the other).

  • Science team leader for the Planet Hunters citizen science program.

  • Created a user weighting system for Planet Hunters based on synthetic data.

  • Verified the robustness of one facet of the Kepler Mission's analysis pipeline.

Research assistant:

  • Aided in the discovery and analysis of KIC 8462852, called "The Most Mysterious Star in Our Galaxy" by The Atlantic and at the center of speculation about "alien megastructures".

  • Assisted other members of the Planet Hunters science team in the discovery of 8 confirmed exoplanets and 67 new planet candidates, including many of the longest period planet candidates ever found.

  • Determined the best method to correct for imperfect computer modeling of stellar surfaces, allowing for more accurate estimates of stars' masses, radii, ages, and other properties.

  • Supported a citizen scientist on his own scientific publication on eclipsing binary stars.

See my Publications for more on my research.

University of Iowa
(2008 – 2012)

Bachelor of Science, Physics and Astronomy, Minor in Latin (2012)
Special Honors, With Highest Distinction

  • Discovered several X-ray binaries (a system containing one star and either one neutron star or black hole) in small, blue galaxies and found more than expected, implying that they were important in heating the early universe.

See my Publications for more on my research.

Leadership, Advocacy, and Outreach

Planet Hunters citizen science program
(November 2012 – July 2017)

  • Science team leader

  • Conducted regular communication with many citizen scientists through blog posts (see my Blog), emails, and in-person meetings

Yale Graduate Student Assembly
(October 2012 – June 2017)

  • Executive Board and Steering Committee member (September 2016 – January 2017)

  • Advocate for graduate students

  • Organized multiple tax information sessions
(December 2015 – April 2017)

  • Author of several articles summarizing the latest astronomical research written for an intended audience of college astronomy majors (see my Blog)

Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium
(September 2015 – November 2016)

  • Volunteer presenting two weekly planetarium shows to the public

  • More than 2500+ visitors attended my shows, from children to professors and everyone in between

  • Assisted in setting up telescopes to let the public observe the Moon, planets, stars, galaxies, and nebulae

Annual New Haven Science Fair
(May 2015, May 2016)

  • Volunteer judge for elementary school science fair projects for two years Science Ask Me Anything (AMA) Series
(July 2015)

  • Hosted a Planet Hunters AMA with 28,000 unique visitors

  • Facilitated the AMA for Dr. Tabetha Boyajian and Professor Jason Wright to talk about progress made in studying "The Most Mysterious Star in the Galaxy", KIC 8462852, an original Planet Hunters discovery

Emerging Researchers in Exoplanet Science Symposium
(May 2015)

  • Member of the Organizing Committee

House Midterm and Connecticut Gubernatorial Election
(October 2014 – November 2014)

  • Canvassed neighborhoods for the re-election effort for House Representative DeLauro (D) and Governor Malloy (D) in the weeks leading up to the 2014 election

  • Knocked on doors to get out the vote on Election Day

American Astronomical Society
(November 2013)

  • Traveled to Washington, DC to meet with four Representatives' offices to advocate for the funding of astronomy priorities as part of the “Communicating with Washington” program

University of Iowa Department of Physics and Astronomy
(February 2009, February 2010)

  • Presenter in the Department of Physics and Astronomy Demonstration Shows for the general public, primarily children

Teaching Experience

Yale University
Teaching Fellow

While at Yale, I went above and beyond my required teaching load of four classes, teaching seven classes in my five years at Yale. My teaching load included weekly discussion sections, grading homework and exams, and/or leading astronomical labs at Yale's Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium.

  • ASTR 320: Physical Processes in Astronomy (Fall 2016)

  • ASTR 120: Galaxies and the Universe (Summer 2016)

  • ASTR 120: Galaxies and the Universe (Spring 2016)

  • ASTR 130: Origins & the Search for Life in the Universe (Fall 2014)

  • ASTR 130: Life in the Universe (Fall 2013)

  • ASTR 110: Planets and Stars (Spring 2013)

  • ASTR 220: Galaxies and Cosmology (Fall 2012)

Independent Tutor
(May 2016 – June 2016)

I served as a high school level math tutor for 2 months to help a struggling sophomore receive a passing grade.

Yale University
Math and science coach
(June 2015 – July 2015)

I was a math and science coach for the Freshman Scholars at Yale program, which is designed to assist incoming students who may need additional help in adjusting to college life (such as being a first-generation college student).

Awards and Honors

  • Presidential Management Fellow (2017 – Present)

  • Air Force Outstanding Civilian Junior Analyst of the Year (2018)

  • White House Fellowship Regional Finalist (2017)

  • Henry A. Smith Fellowship in Astronomy (2012 – 2014)

  • University of Iowa Department of Physics and Astronomy Undergraduate Scholar Award (2012)

  • University of Iowa President’s and Dean’s List (2008 – 2012)

  • University of Iowa National Scholars Award (2008 – 2012)



  • More than 5 years experience (since early 2013).

  • Experience in parallel processing/high performance computing with PySpark on datasets hundreds of gigabytes in size.

  • Have used Python for data analysis (pandas, numpy, scipy, astropy, etc.) and data visualization (matplotlib) on nine publications.

  • Written code to take Planet Hunters citizen scientists' classifications and aggregate them into transit detections.

  • Developed a user weighting system for thousands of Planet Hunters users by using synthetic data.

  • Minor experience in creating movies and 3D figures.

Microsoft Office

  • More than 15 years experience with Microsoft Excel, Powerpoint, and Word (since at least middle school).


See Publications and my Blog for my writings.

  • First author on five peer-reviewed research papers in astronomy.

  • Co-author on five peer-reviewed research papers in astronomy.

  • Rapporteur on a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine workshop proceedings.

Public speaking

  • Volunteered at the Yale Leitner Family Planetarium and Observatory, where I presented two shows to the public every week. More than 2,500 have attended my shows, which were accessible to children, professors, and everyone in between.

  • Have given two conference talks (see below).

Minor skills

This section lists skills I am familiar with, but have used minimally.

  • Markov Chain Monte Carlo statistical methods

  • Tableau

  • Spark

  • C++

  • IDL (Interactive Data Language)

  • HTML

Other Professional Activities

Conference Talks

Air Force Operations Research Symposium
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
(March 14, 2018)

Title: "Investment Costs vs. Aircraft Service Life: Are we retiring aircraft too early?"

Connecticut Exoplanet Picnic
Wesleyan University
(May 26, 2016)

Title: "Mr. Rogers or Dennis the Menace? How friendly are the neighbors of planet host stars?"

Observational Experience

  • Keck I telescope (10 meters), Mauna Kea, Hawaii (June 2015)
    Multi-Object Spectrograph For Infra-Red Exploration (MOSFIRE)

  • Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) Telescope (4.1 meters), La Serena, Chile (May 2015)
    High-Resolution Camera (HRCAM)

  • Harlan J. Smith telescope (2.7 meters), Fort Davis, Texas (October 2014)
    Robert G. Tull Coudé Spectrograph

  • Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO)/Small and Moderate Aperture Research Telescope System (1.5 meters), La Serena, Chile (May 2013)

  • Keck I telescope (10 meters), Mauna Kea, Hawaii (January 2013)
    High Resolution Echelle Spectrometer (HIRES)

Poster Presentations

  • Schmitt, J. R., Jenkins, Jon M., & Fischer, Debra A. 2017, "A Search for Lost Planets in the Kepler Multi-planet Systems and the Discovery of the Long-period, Neptune-sized Exoplanet Kepler-150 f", Emerging Researchers in Exoplanet Science Symposium III, Yale University (June 12-13)

  • Schmitt, J. R., Giguere, M. J., Fischer, D. A., Lintott, C. J., and the Planet Hunters team. 2015, "M-dwarf Planet Occurrence Rates out to Several Hundred Days Using the Citizen Science Program Planet Hunters", Emerging Researchers in Exoplanet Science Symposium, Penn State University (May 28-29)

  • Schmitt, J. R., Wang, J., Agol, E., and the Planet Hunters team. 2014, "Planet Hunters: Three New Confirmed Planets and the First Kepler Seven Candidate System", American Astronomical Society meeting, Washington, D.C. (Jan. 5-9)

  • Schmitt, J. R., Wang, J., and the Planet Hunters team. 2013, "Planet Hunters VI: The First Kepler Seven Planet Candidate System and 13 Other Planet Candidates from the Kepler Archival Data", Kepler Science Conference II, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffet Field, CA (Nov. 4-8)

  • Schmitt, J. R., Wang, J., and the Planet Hunters team. 2013, "Planet Hunters Update: Many New Planet Candidates Identified by Citizen Scientists from Kepler Data, Including Several in the Habitable Zone", Protostars and Planets VI, Heidelberg, Germany (July 15-20)

  • Schmitt, J., Kaaret, P., and Gorski, M. 2012, "X-rays from Blue Compact Dwarf Galaxies", American Astronomical Society meeting, Austin, TX (Jan. 8-12)

  • Schmitt, J., Kaaret, P., and Gorski, M. 2011, "X-rays from Blue Compact Dwarf Galaxies", Fall Research Festival, Iowa City, IA (Dec. 7)