Current Graduate Student

Photo of Lea Hirsch

Lea Hirsch


Research Interests

I'm interested in understanding how extrasolar planets form and evolve in binary star systems. I approach these questions observationally, using adaptive optics and speckle imaging combined with radial velocity measurements to search for both planetary and stellar companions to nearby main-sequence G and K stars.

Personal Interests

In my free time I love climbing, hiking, crafting, and consuming lots of sci-fi and fantasy media.


I am a fourth-year graduate student at Berkeley. My thesis project will focus on comparing planets in binary star systems to those in single star systems, within a volume-limited sample of nearby G- and K-type stars. I am currently using the ShaneAO system on the 3-meter Shane Telescope at Lick Observatory and the DSSI Speckle Camera on the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope at Kitt Peak to obtain high-resolution images of my bright sample stars, searching for high-contrast and close-in binary systems. I am also using Keck-HIRES and the Automated Planet Finder to search for planets around the same sample of host stars. My goal is to perform a direct comparison between the planet populations in single versus binary stellar systems.

I spent the spring and summer semesters of 2015 participating in the IPAC Visiting Graduate Student Fellowship program at Caltech. At IPAC, I worked with David Ciardi to apply high-resolution imaging data of Kepler planet host stars toward characterizing the population of Kepler planets in binary star systems. 

Before becoming a graduate student at Berkeley, I was an undergraduate at Cornell University, where I worked with Terry Herter on FORCAST/SOFIA data of W3(OH), an ultra-compact HII region surrounding a newly formed massive star.


Breakthrough Listen Initiative

Breakthrough Listen Initiative

Lead: Andrew Siemion

The Breakthrough Listen Initiative, funded by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, is the most powerful, comprehensive and intensive scientific search ever undertaken for signs of intelligent life beyond Earth. The project is using the Green Bank radio telescope in West Virginia and the Parkes Telescope in Australia to search for radio transmissions from advanced civilizations.  In addition, the Automated Planet Finder at Lick Observatory is being used to search for optical laser transmissions from other technological civilizations.

More about Breakthrough Listen Initiative