The Institute for Planets and Exoplanets (iPLEX) is an academic consortium bridging the interests of UCLA faculty, researchers and students in the departments of Earth and Space Sciences, Physics and Astronomy, and Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences. Our goal is to promote and advance planetary science research by means of interdisciplinary collaboration. Research in the planetary sciences at UCLA spans many topics, including, but not limited to planetary system formation, growth and structure, physics of interiors, planetary geology, atmospheres and oceans, primitive bodies, extrasolar planet detection, magnetic fields, and circumstellar debris disks. Current iPLEX membership at UCLA includes 28 faculty members, 31 postdoctoral researchers and research scientists, and 45 graduate students across three UCLA departments. Since its launch in 2011, fourteen students have earned Doctorate degrees in planetary science-related fields.
In addition to fostering collaborations between departments at UCLA, we aim to develop inter-institutional partnerships, both at the individual and institutional level. One way we attempt to achieve this is through hosting conferences and workshops, which draw planetary scientists from worldwide locations to the UCLA campus and provide researchers and students alike with the opportunity to collaborate on current planetary science. Additionally, iPLEX and scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena are discussing an institutional partnership that should create numerous research opportunities and benefit JPL and UCLA alike.
Furthermore, iPLEX is interested in sharing the fascinating world of planetary science with local and national communities and schools. Our education and public outreach program includes annual events during which students and their families can come to UCLA to participate in hands-on planetary science activities, from making their own comets to seeing a UCLA planetarium show to observing the Moon with powerful telescopes. In addition, iPLEX is helping to build a meteorite museum at UCLA that will be free and accessible to members of the public.