ß Courtney Dressing

I study planets orbiting other stars

I’m an observational astronomer focused on detecting and characterizing planetary systems orbiting nearby stars. I use telescopes on the ground and in space to search for planets, probe their atmospheres, measure their masses, and constrain their bulk compositions. I am curious about how planets form and evolve with time, the frequency of planetary systems in the Galaxy, and the prospects for detecting life on planets outside of our Solar System.

Research Highlights

  • System Characterization

    Using multiple telescopes, I refined the properties of planetary systems detected by the NASA K2 mission and found that many of the coolest target stars are larger than previously assumed.
    (Image credit: NASA)

  • Planet Compositions

    Working with the HARPS-N Collaboration, I measured the mass of the small planet Kepler-93b and found that the densities of all small, highly-irradiated planets can be explained by a single Earth-like compositional model.

  • Planet Occurrence

    Using the full four-year Kepler data set, I found that small planets are common in the galaxy. On average, one out of every four low-mass stars harbors a potentially habitable Earth-sized planet.
    (Image credit: D. Aguilar/CfA)

Research Group

  • Undergraduates

    I have several projects available for undergraduate researchers. Please send me an email if you're interested in trying out exoplanet research or if you'd like to learn more about STEM career paths.

  • Graduate Students

    I am currently advising Charles Fortenbach (Master's student, SFSU) and Andrew Mayo (entering Cal fall 2018). I'm also looking for new graduate students. Would you like to join the group?

  • Postdocs

    I am eager to collaborate with postdoctoral researchers at Cal and beyond. Please email me if you'd like to learn more about research and funding opportunities at Cal.


I am currently teaching a graduate course on planetary astrophysics.
In spring 2018, I will co-teach the undergraduate course "The Planets" with Professor Raymond Jeanloz.


I believe in making science more equitable and accessible to everyone. I'm new to Berkeley and looking for opportunities to become involved in science outreach in the Bay Area. Please contact me if you have suggestions or if you are looking for volunteers for your own programs.

Since 2013, I have participated in the "Astronomy Chat" program at the National Air & Space Museum Observatory in Washington, D.C. by chatting regularly over the internet with visitors to the museum. I also enjoy giving public talks to audiences of all ages and participate in mentorship programs to support the next generation of scientists.

While at Harvard, I was one of the founding members of Astrobites, a daily blog designed to help undergraduates make the transition from completing coursework in their undergraduate classes to conducting research in graduate school. I was also one of the founding organizers of Communicating Science 2013 & 2014, workshops organized by graduate students for graduate students to improve their science communication skills.


See my curriculum vitae or publications list if you would like to learn more about my research.

Short Bio

Prior to moving to Cal, I was a NASA Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow in the Division of Geological & Planetary Scienceas at the California Institute of Technology. I earned a Ph.D. in Astronomy & Astrophysics from Harvard University in 2015 for my research with David Charbonneau on the frequency, composition, and detectability of small planets orbiting small stars. I previously earned a Master's degree in Astronomy & Astrophysics from Harvard in 2012 and a bachelor's degree in Astrophysical Sciences from Princeton in 2010. I am originally from the Washington, D.C. area, where I gained an early introduction to astrophysics by participating in the Astronomy Research Lab at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology and taking dozens of trips to the National Air & Space Museum.

Contact Me

Address: Campbell Hall 605, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
Email: dressing [at] berkeley [dot] edu