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 sixth-year graduate student at Berkeley. My thesis project focuses 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 understanding the impact of stellar multiplicity on the inferred planetary radii of transiting exoplanets.

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.