Senate Faculty

Photo of Courtney Dressing

Courtney Dressing

Assistant Professor of Astronomy

Ph.D and A.M. in Astronomy & Astrophysics from Harvard University (Ph.D. in 2015, A.M. in 2012)

A.B. in Astrophysical Sciences from Princeton University, 2010.


Research Interests

  • Searching for small, potentially habitable exoplanets orbiting nearby stars
  • Characterizing planet host stars to improve stellar and planetary parameters Investigating the dependence of planet occurrence on stellar and planetary properties
  • Constraining the frequency of planetary systems orbiting low-mass stars
  • Testing models of planet formation by exploring the compositional diversity of small planets


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.

Planet properties are typically determined relative to the properties of their host stars. Accordingly, my research program also includes using ground-based telescopes to estimate the sizes, masses, and temperatures of stars that harbor planetary systems. I am particularly interested in Red Dwarfs – stars that are significantly smaller than the Sun – because planets orbiting these stars are more detectable than planets orbiting larger stars like the Sun. Moreover, 75% of stars in the Galaxy are Red Dwarfs and recent surveys have revealed that Red Dwarfs frequently host potentially habitable planets like the small worlds of the TRAPPIST-1 system.

I will join the Astronomy Department at UC Berkeley in July 2017 after spending two years as a NASA Sagan Fellow in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at the California Institute of Technology.