Nathan Kaib

Senior Scientist and Senior Education and Communication Specialist

Professional History

I was born in Elyria, Ohio (located near Cleveland, Ohio) and graduated from Elyria High School in 1998. Always interested in science, I majored in physics at Case Western Reserve University and received my undergraduate degree in physics in 2002. However, along the way, I realized I was more interested in astronomy than physics on its own. After graduating in 2002, I worked for about 9 months as an assistant in a lab studying fuel droplet combustion in microgravity environments at NASA Glenn Research Center. This allowed me to save up enough money to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine over the course of 5 months (one of the highlights of my life). After completing the Appalachian Trail, I attended grad school at the University of Washington. Upon arriving, I thought I wanted to study things like neutron stars and black holes, but I found out that astronomy as it relates to the planets, Earth, and the solar system was most interesting to me. I ultimately worked with advisor Tom Quinn simulating the orbital evolution of the Oort cloud. I very much enjoyed tinkering with software to shed light on how the Universe operates, and I've spent most of the rest of my professional career doing this. After receiving my PhD in astronomy in early 2010, I again thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail before beginning three different stints as a postdoctoral researcher. The first was with Martin Duncan at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, the second was at Northwestern University, and the third was with John Chambers at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, DC. After this, I moved to Norman, Oklahoma in 2015 where I worked as a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Oklahoma. I enjoyed my work at University of Oklahoma and was awarded tenure in 2021. However, after getting married and having a child (more life highlights), we really wanted to live nearer to extended family. In addition, as a professor, I found myself spending more of my time managing research teams and thinking mostly in big picture terms, and less of my time working on the everyday nuts and bolts tasks. While there's something to be said for the former, I missed the latter. As a result, in 2023, I decided to leave my faculty position at OU and begin working at Planetary Science Institute. Here I have been using computer simulations to understand the formation of the Kuiper belt and what it tells us about the past orbital evolution of the giant planets. In addition, I have been modeling how the passages of other stars in the Milky Way affect our solar system and other planetary systems.