I am a PhD candidate working with Prof. Christoph Baranec and Prof. Michael Liu. I am interested in the formation and evolution of exoplanets & brown dwarfs and adaptive optics (AO) instrumentation. For my thesis, I am conducting the Large Adaptive optics Survey for Substellar Objects (LASSO), to directly image wide-orbit (>50 AU) substellar companions around young (<300 Myrs), low-mass (0.1-0.8 MSun) stars within 100pc. The main objective is to carry out population studies on these rare companions in order to better understand their formation and evolution mechanisms. I am conducting this survey using Robo-AO, a robotic adaptive optics instrument. I participated in the commissioning of Robo-AO on the Kitt Peak 2.1-m telescope in Arizona in 2015, and again in 2019 when we moved the instrument to the UH 2.2-m telescope on Maunakea. I commissioned a new infrared science camera with a SAPHIRA detector (a low-noise, high-speed, avalanche photodiode array) in order to carry out the LASSO survey.


Ph.D. Topic

Topic: Large Adaptive optics Survey for Substellar Objects (LASSO) at wide separations around young, nearby, low-mass stars with Robo-AO
Committee: Christoph Baranec(Chair), Michael C. Liu (co-advisor), Daniel Huber, Jennifer van Saders, Brendan P. Bowler, Monique Chyba (UH representative)



UCSC ISEE Professional Development Program:

  • (2019) Adaptive Optics Lab for Akamai Workforce Initiative Workshop (Design Team Lead)
  • (2016) Stellar Magnitudes Lab for ASTR 110L, UH Manoa


I am mentor for Maunakea Scholars, a program where high school students in Hawaii can apply for observing time on Maunakea telescopes. Students come up with their own project ideas, which allows them to pursue their interests, and are helped by a mentor to turn that idea into a telescope proposal. They get first-hand experience in what it is to do research in astronomy by going through the same process as astronomers around world and using the same telescopes. Through this program, students not only learn about astronomy, but also important skills such as writing a science proposal, collecting and analyzing data, and presenting results. As a mentor, it is extremely rewarding seeing the excitement in the students and I am always amazed by their project ideas, full of curiosity and creativity.


  • AAS (2016 - present)
  • SPIE (2016 - present)
  • Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey Team (2014 - 2018)



  • SPIE Education Scholarship (2016)
  • Regents' and Chancellors' Scholarship of UC Berkeley (2010-2014)



  • (2019) Jennifer Bragg, undergraduate student at UH Hilo, physics & math major

Maïssa Salama

Graduate Student
M.S. Astronomy 2017, University of Hawai`i at Mānoa
B.A. Astrophysics 2014, University of California, Berkeley
  • LASSO (Large Adaptive optics Survey for Substellar Objects)
  • Robo-AO
  • SAPHIRA detector
IfA Hawaii island,