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Howard Chen

Assistant Professor | College of Engineering and Science - Aerospace, Physics and Space Sciences

Contact Information

Personal Overview

Howard Chen is an Assistant Professor of Planetary Sciences at Florida Institute of Technology. Thematically, his research centers on cornerstone questions such as "where we do come from" and "who else is out there?".

The majority of his research involves computer simulations of exoplanet atmospheres in the context of atmospheric evolution, dynamics, and chemistry. He has used a wide heritage of analytical and numerical models to pertinant to volatile accretion, hydrodynamic escape, and global chemistry-climate systems to study early Earth, Earth-like habitable zone planets, and sub-Neptune sized planets orbiting others stars, aka "exoplanets".

He has correctly predicted the existence of a “valley” in the radius distribution of Kepler planets and has made several other predictions pending verification such as a divergent climate pathway for outer edge habitable zone worlds in compact multiplanet systems, the origin of superchrondritic carbon to nitrogen ratios in bulk silicate Earth, a prominent water vapor moist greenhouse spectral feature on tidally-locked exoplanets around M-dwarfs, and the prevalence of “habitable evaporated cores” close to the galactic center.


Educational Background

PhD in Earth and Planetary Sciences, Northwestern University, 2021

M.S., Earth and Planetary Sciences, Northwestern University,  2018

B.A in Physics, Boston University (2012-2016)

Professional Experience

NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow at Goddard Space Flight Center (2022-2023)

Future Investigator in NASA Earth, Space Sciences, and Technology (2018-2021)

Selected Publications

Chen, H. and Jacobson, S.A., 2022. Impact induced atmosphere-mantle exchange sets the volatile elemental ratios on primitive Earths. Earth and Planetary Science Letters594, p.117741.


Chen, H., 2021. Lithopanspermia at the Center of Spiral Galaxies. Planet Formation and Panspermia: New Prospects for the Movement of Life through Space, pp.149-170.


Fauchez, T.J., Turbet, M., Sergeev, D.E., Mayne, N.J., Spiga, A., Sohl, L., Saxena, P., Deitrick, R., Gilli, G., Domagal-Goldman, S.D. and Forget, F., 2021. TRAPPIST Habitable Atmosphere Intercomparison (THAI) workshop report. The Planetary Science Journal2(3), p.106.


Chen, H., Zhan, Z., Youngblood, A., Wolf, E.T., Feinstein, A.D. and Horton, D.E., 2021. Persistence of flare-driven atmospheric chemistry on rocky habitable zone worlds. Nature Astronomy5(3), pp.298-310.


Chen, H., Wolf, E.T., Zhan, Z. and Horton, D.E., 2019. Habitability and spectroscopic observability of warm M-dwarf exoplanets evaluated with a 3D chemistry-climate model. The Astrophysical Journal886(1), p.16.


Chen, H., Wolf, E.T., Kopparapu, R., Domagal-Goldman, S. and Horton, D.E., 2018. Biosignature anisotropy modeled on temperate tidally locked M-dwarf planets. The Astrophysical Journal Letters868(1), p.L6.


Chen, H., Forbes, J.C. and Loeb, A., 2018. Habitable evaporated cores and the occurrence of panspermia near the Galactic center. The Astrophysical Journal Letters855(1), p.L1.


Chen, H. and Rogers, L.A., 2016. Evolutionary analysis of gaseous sub-Neptune-mass planets with MESA. The Astrophysical Journal831(2), p.180.

Recognition & Awards

Selected as one of 25 Rising Stars in Astronomy by the Astronomy Magazine

Recipient of 2021 NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellowship

Recipient of 2020 Horace A. Scott NU EPS Award for Excellence in Graduate Research

Recipient of 2019 American Geophysical Union (AGU) Outstanding Student Presentation Award

Recipient of 2019 Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST) Award

Recipient of 2014 Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)

Recipient of 2015 Boston University Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) Grant

Recipient of 2013 Boston University Student Academic Enhancement Fund Travel Award


Predicting exoplanet habitability and detectability for future instruments
Developing numerical models of early Earth and Earth-like planets
Retrieving observational and remotely sensed data using novel analysis techniques

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