Pappalardo Fellows

Pappalardo Fellow in Physics: 2018-2021


Name: Steven Villanueva

Title: Pappalardo Fellow in Physics: 2018-2021


Phone: (617) 253-9342


MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics & Space Research
77 Mass. Ave.
Building 37-582 BB
Cambridge, MA 02139

Related Links:

  • Pappalardo Fellowships at MIT
  • The Ohio State University, Department of Astronomy

    Area of Physics:

    Experimental Astrophysics/Observational Astronomy

    Research Interests

    Steven Villanueva focuses on the discovery, confirmation, and characterization of planets outside of our solar system. He uses the transit method to look for the dimming of starlight that occurs when a planet passes in front of the star it orbits. By measuring the period, duration, and depth of this 1% or less dimming of starlight, he can measure the size and orbit of the planet around its host star.

    Steven makes use of the 20-inch (0.5-m) robotic and automated telescope that he built as part of his graduate thesis to confirm and characterize potential planets discovered by ground-based surveys and for the upcoming TESS mission. He focuses on extending the period range of TESS by looking for planets that orbit their stars on orbits of weeks and months, rather than orbits of days that most surveys are sensitive to.

    Steven also maintains a strong commitment to outreach and working with underrepresented groups in STEM fields, especially underrepresented minorities, women, and first-generation college students. He is a longtime member of both the National Society of Hispanic Physicists and the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science.

    Biographical Sketch

      Steven Villanueva, Jr. is a first-generation college student from Grand Prairie, Texas. He served four years in the United States Air Force as an aircraft support equipment mechanic to fund his undergraduate education. Steven earned a BS in physics from Texas A&M University, working on astronomy site-testing equipment with Prof. Darren DePoy (MIT '82). He earned his PhD in astronomy at The Ohio State University as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow working with Profs. Scott Gaudi and Richard Pogge, with a dual focus on the study of exoplanets and on the construction, automation and operation of ground-based telescopes. In his spare time, Steven enjoys playing soccer and board games, and raising "Cosmos," his recently adopted Chihuahua-Dachshund-Boston Terrier puppy.

    Selected Publications

    • "DEdicated MONitor of EXotransits and Transients (DEMONEXT): System Overview and Year One Results from a Low-cost Robotic Telescope for Followup of Exoplanetary Transits and Transients," Villanueva, S. Jr., Gaudi, B. S., Pogge, R. W., et al., PASP, 130a5001V (2018)
    • "KELT-20b: A Giant Planet with a Period of P~3.5 days Transiting the V~7.6 Early A Star HD 185603," Lund, M. B., Rodriguez, J. E., Zhou, G., AJ, 154, 194L (2017)
    • "The Dedicated Monitor of Exotransits (DEMONEX): Seven Transits of XO-4b," Villanueva, S., Jr., Eastman, J. D., Gaudi, B. S., ApJ, 820, 87V (2016)
    • "Characterizing Optical Turbulence at the GMT Site with MooSci and MASS-DIMM," Thomas-Osip, J. E., Prieto, G., Berdja, A., PASP, 124, 84T (2012)

    Last updated on April 16, 2019 4:17 PM