Anjali Tripathi explores planets to uncover the processes that make and destroy them.

Why you should listen

Even though Anjali Tripathi worked on NASA's Mars rovers in high school, the California native never expected to become an astronomer. Unlike the earthquakes she researched early on, astronomy seemed unconnected from daily life. As she has since discovered, exploring distant planets has a lot to do with life itself -- including the fate of the air we breathe. Using some of the most powerful telescopes and supercomputers, Tripathi studies how seemingly permanent planets change over time. She has pioneered the characterization of planet-forming environments and developed computer simulations to trace the 3D structure of planet atmospheres that are shrinking due to evaporation.

A natural teacher, Tripathi makes complex science concepts relevant and easy to understand. She believes that everyone can understand science -- even rocket science. She has partnered with the Smithsonian, Teach for America and others to increase scientific literacy and spread enthusiasm for the subject. Her engaging and humorous talks feature real world connections and unusual props, including a fully functioning Mars Pathfinder rover or full-size solar car.

Tripathi earned degrees in physics and astronomy from M.I.T., the University of Cambridge and Harvard University. Recognized as a promising American leader with a commitment to public service, Tripathi is a 2016-17 White House Fellow.

Anjali Tripathi’s TED talk