Dr Jake Taylor in apple orchard

Meet...Jake Taylor

Exoplanets and planetary physics
Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics

We work among extraordinary people doing extraordinary things; get to know some of them by reading these quick-fire interviews.

Name: Jake Taylor
Job title: Postdoctoral Researcher in Exoplanet Atmosphere Modelling

What are you currently working on?
My main research focuses on using the newly launched James Webb Space Telescope to study the atmospheres of transiting exoplanets. These are planets that orbit different stars in our galaxy. I am currently leading a study of the exoplanet WASP-96b, a hot Jupiter which was the first exoplanet spectrum that NASA released to the public! I am also working on a few other targets including some of the TRAPPIST-1 planets.

Describe a typical day
There is no typical day, as days will vary depending on what seminars I attend, or what meetings I have. Let me give you an example of a typical Tuesday. I will get to the office around 10:30am (Redbull in hand, I am NOT a morning person!) and I will start the day by looking at my emails and then checking what papers have been posted on the arXiv preprint server. I reply to any emails and Slack messages and if any of the papers were of interest to my research group I would post it in our Slack channel.

Usually, I would have written a to-do list for the week, so I would then begin tackling this. This could be anything from fixing a coding bug, doing a review for a manuscript, setting up simulations or writing my own papers. At around midday, I would head to lunch with some of the other postdocs and DPhils who also study exoplanets; we usually grab something from Taylor’s, other days we might go to Gloucester Green Market. After lunch I’ll resume what I was doing in the morning and then at 2pm I host a group meeting for the exoplanet modelling group. Once the meeting is over, I tend to switch task and try to tackle something else on my to-do list. At the moment, I am part of a few collaborations involving observations from the James Webb Space Telescope, so afternoons are usually spent in Zoom meetings with people from North America. I make sure my head is in gear for these meetings by reviewing what work I have done for them and prepare myself for whatever I need to present. I end up leaving the office around 6pm and try to switch my brain off, but sometimes an interesting Slack message comes through and I want to quickly run some simulations.

I have also been working with Professor Sonia Contera to develop the department’s LGBT+ network. We held our first event last term and have another one at 4.15pm on 28 February – come along! Outside of Oxford, I am a trustee for the charity Pride in STEM.

Evenings vary all the time, I go to the pub and have dinner often with colleagues, however some evenings I will spend watching Netflix to recharge my batteries.

If you had an entire day at your disposal (not at work), what would be your ideal way to spend it?
One of my happy places is to be near the ocean. I would take my Mum to the seaside for the day and explore. Growing up, when my parents could afford it, we would go on caravan holidays to the south coast. There were different places that we used go to but my favourite place was a town called Seaton. It would be great to visit and go down memory lane.

What is your favourite place in Oxford?
I did my DPhil at New College so I was lucky enough to experience its beauty. One of my favourite places to go is the cloisters near the chapel, this is where some scenes of Harry Potter was filmed. When you are there, you forget that you are in a city, it is so peaceful. I have studied there a few times when the weather has been good.

What discovery would you like to see in your lifetime?
In my lifetime I would like to see the direct detection of biosignatures in the atmosphere of a terrestrial exoplanet. For centuries, people have asked 'are we alone in the universe?' With the invention of modern telescopes and instrumentation we are getting close to answering this question!