#SoCaltech: Shreyas Vissapragada
"In the planetary atmospheres class I took with Andy Ingersoll, we learned about this unknown molecule that absorbs UV light that is present in Venus's atmosphere. The fact that there's still a molecule in Venus's atmosphere that we don't know about was kind of just baffling to me. I mean, it's right next door! So I was reading up on it, and I came across a hypothesis for what this molecule could be that I thought looked fairly plausible. I realized that it was observable with ALMA [the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array], which is used mostly for problems outside our solar system. So I was like, 'Why not?' I took this idea from class and turned it into one of my graduate research projects. It was a scientific whirlwind to put together the proposal to use ALMA, because it was the first proposal that I had ever written myself. When it got approved by ALMA's scientific committee, I was expecting to feel such joy. But I remember feeling so scared that I messed up a calculation or something until I talked to a fellow grad student in the department who said something to the effect of, ‘Don’t worry if you got a calculation wrong. You're going to have fun and learn a lot.’”
Shreyas Vissapragada is a second-year graduate student studying planetary science. In addition to his work on Venus, Vissapragada studies the formation of rings around small solar system bodies and uses Caltech's Palomar Observatory to observe the chemistry of exoplanetary systems.
#SoCaltech is an occasional series celebrating the diverse individuals who give Caltech its spirit of excellence, ambition, and ingenuity. Know someone we should profile? Send nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.