About Me

Growing up in Spanish Harlem, the beauty of the night's sky was often robbed from my gaze due to New York City's light pollution. That did not inhibit me from questioning what lies beyond the steel and glass towers and the artificially lit clouds above. One of the first celestial objects that captivated me was the Moon and has since been a source of my inspiration. As a child, I asked numerous questions that were sparked by my interest in astronomy..

The adults in my life, while uneducated in astronomy and physics, highly encouraged me to pursue my passion outside of the classroom. I was consumed by thoughts of astronomy but faced with the reality of my limited resources. I was inspired to look for answers in my local libraries, educational programs on television as well as frequenting the American Museum of Natural History. In spite of my lack of exposure to physics and math in my early education, I was able to develop a deeper understanding of basic astronomy on my own.

While my rudimentary understanding of astronomy grew, my questions became more precise; “Where did the Moon come from? Where did the planets in our solar system come from?”, “Are there other planets out there?” or “What kind of planets can host life similar to Earth?”. These are the questions that continue to fuel my passion for astronomy. I am currently a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Astrophysics department of the American Museum of Natural History in NYC.

Some more details on my recent work can be found on my Research page.

Recently, my collaborators and I have become involved in the development of a light curve extraction and transit searching pipeline using data from the TESS mission in order to find exoplanets that orbit cool, red stars.


NEMESIS: Exoplanet Transit Survey of Nearby M-Dwarfs in TESS FFIs I

In recent years, interest in M-dwarf stars as hosts for planets has increased as the field of exoplanet discovery has grown. In this work, me and my collaborators have conducted a survey of over 33,000 stars within 100 parsecs of Earth that were observed by the Transiting Exoplanet Satellite Survey (TESS). In the two year TESS mission, the satellite surveys roughly 85% of the sky in two modes of observational cadence: once every 30 minutes and once every 2 minutes. Typically, only bright, isolated stars are pre-selected to be observed every 2 minutes by TESS which leaves a lot of M-dwarf stars, which are typically faint, observed with only 30 minute cadences. The lack of time resolution can make detection of planetary transits difficult but with our NEMESIS pipeline, we were able to detect 29 planet candidates, 24 of which are brand new detections! Transit surveys like ours can give an empirical validation of how many planets are missed by using the 30 minute cadence data.

You can find our work located at: Feliz et al. 2021. All of our data products are available at https://filtergraph.com/NEMESIS. This particular project will always hold a special place in my heart as not only is this my 1st first-authored TESS based paper, I also got to share co-authorship with three undergraduates (Samantha Bianco, Mary Jimenez and Bryan Villarreal Alvarado) who this is also their first paper as authors! Without their help, this project would not have been possible.

Software and Tutorials coming soon!

Period-radius diagram of all confirmed transiting exoplanets and exoplanet candidates observed in TESS sectors 1 – 5 from Figure 9 of Feliz et al. 2021.

A Multi-Year Search For Transits Of Proxima Centauri

Proxima Centauri has become the subject of intense study since the radial-velocity discovery by Anglada-Escudé et al. 2016 of a planet orbiting this nearby M-dwarf every ~ 11.2 days. If Proxima Centauri b transits its host star, independent confirmation of its existence is possible, and its mass and radius can be measured in units of the stellar host mass and radius. There have been numerous independent surveys and analyses of the Proxima system in search of transit events. Using a global network of small telescopes, we have obtained light curves of Proxima Centauri at 329 observation epochs from 2006 - 2017.

In Blank et al. (2018), we analyzed 96 of our light curves that overlapped with predicted transit ephemerides from previously published tentative transit detections, and found no evidence in our data that would corroborate claims of transits with a period of 11.186 d. In Feliz et al. (2019), we broaden our analysis, using 262 high-quality light curves from our data set to search for any periodic transit-like events over a range of periods from 1 - 30 days. Specifically at the 11.186 d period and 5 millimagnitude transit depth, we rule out transits in our data with high confidence with a transit injection analysis. We are able to rule out virtually all transits of other planets at periods shorter than 5 days and depths greater than 3 millimagnitudes; however, we cannot confidently rule out transits at the period of Proxima b due to incomplete orbital phase coverage and a lack of sensitivity to transits shallower than 4 millimagnitudes.

An artist’s impression of Proxima Centauri b. Credit: ESO.


Vanderbilt astronomers discover exceedingly rare star:

The Evolutionary Studies Initiative at Vanderbilt

Mentorship through the Central American-Caribbean Bridge Program with Bryan Villarreal Alvarado:

Bryan Villarreal Alvarado: Guanacaste Exoplanet Hunter on the Search for Alien Worlds

My First Mentorship Experience with Samantha Bianco:

Student’s fascination with astronomy inspires first completed Immersion Vanderbilt project Through Vanderbilt's Immersion program, I worked with undergraduate student Samantha Bianco to search for transiting exoplanets with TESS data. In the history of Vanderbilt University, Samantha is the first student to submit a completed project. So proud!

AU Microscopii b:

A summary of the discovery of AU Mic b. My advisor, Keivan Stassun and I were among the astronomers on the team that helped discover this planet.

Proxima Centauri:

A conversation about the difficulty of detecting and confirming the existence of the planet Proxima Centauri b.

World Meet Dax:
My very first interview!


Mentorship Experience

AMNH Science Research Mentorship Program
Project: Detection of Transiting Exoplanets and Eclipsing Binaries Around Nearby M-dwarf Star, Fall 2022 – Summer 2023.
High School Students: August Fischer, Donovan Bradley, Jashcelyn Canada.

Central American Caribbean Bridge Program
Project: Recovery of known TESS Objects of Interest from Full Frame Images of TESS observations, Spring 2020 – Present.
College Student: Bryan Villarreal Alvarado, University of Costa Rica.

Summer Research Internship
Project: Blind Transit Survey of TESS Data for M Dwarf Systems, Summer 2019 – Present.
Student: College Mary Jimenez, George Mason University, co-menthored with Dr. Peter Plavchan.

Summer Research Internship
Project: Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite: A Search for New Worlds, Summer 2019 – Present.
College Student: Samantha Bianco, Vanderbilt University, co-mentored with Dr. Keivan Stassun.

School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt
Project: Detecting exoplanet transits in TESS light curves, Spring 2019.
High School Student: Felix Bean, Hunter’s Lane High School.

Teaching Experience

Teaching Assistant, Introductory Astronomy Laboratory, Vanderbilt University
The lab meets once a week for 3 hours to work on either computer-based or observing labs. The aims of this class is to gain a familiarity with the night sky, perform observations of planets and stars, and to learn how astronomers may draw conclusions from and figure out the limitations of observations.
Fall 2018 -- Present.

Laboratory Technician / Teaching Assistant, Electronics Laboratory, Bronx Community College
In this course students are taught the characteristics of amplifiers using op-amps with respect to amplification, dB frequency response, and input and output impedance. Op-amp applications are introduced with emphasis on the uses of these devices in the telecommunications industry. Electrooptical devices, power supplies, and switches are studied. The frequency response of passive networks and amplifiers is measured. Analysis by computer simulations is stressed.
Spring, 2014 -- Fall, 2015.


East Harlem Tutorial Program, New York, NY
Tutored and mentored many high-school and middle school students in math, science and the college application process. 2008 -- 2010

East Harlem Scholar's Academy, New York, NY: Alumni Day Speaker
Answering questions of elementary school students about astronomy and physics and my research experience, 2010 -- 2015.

Central Park East High School, New York, NY: College Panel Speaker
Answering questions of high-school students about the my experiences in science and in higher education, 2009 -- 2013.

Central Park East High School, New York, NY: Robotics Consultant
Volunteered to assist high school students with building a robot in the FIRST Robotics Competition, 2009 -- 2011.


My PhD Dissertation Defense at Vanderbilt University (45 minute talk)
Link to Defense Slides!

TESS Science Meeting #25 Presentation of NEMESIS Pipeline (10 minute talk)

Vanderbilt/MIT Presentation of NEMESIS Pipeline (50 minute talk)
Vanderbilt/MIT Presentation of NEMESIS Pipeline (50 minute talk, Click Link To Download)

NEMESIS: Exoplanet Transit Survey of Nearby M-dwarfs in TESS FFIS I
Cool Stars 20.5 Virtual Conference, March 2021

A Multi-Year Transit Search of Proxima Centauri
Master’s Thesis Defense, Fisk University, August 2018

A Decade Long Transit Search for Proxima Centauri b
Emerging Researchers in Exoplanet Science (ERES) Symposium, Yale University, Summer 2017

A Multi-Year Transit Search for Proxima Centauri b
KELT Workshop, Leigh University, Summer 2017

A Multi-Year Transit Search for Proxima Centauri b
Sagan Summer Workshop, California Institute of Technology POP Talk, Summer 2017


City University of New York (CUNY) Bridge Programming Bootcamp
Link to Bootcamp!



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