William is a PhD student and text-adventure author. They are currently attending Johns Hopkins University (Piscataway land), studying in the Physics and Astronomy Department. They conduct research at the Space Telescope Science Institute in order to understand the growth, evolution , and composition of giant planets, brown dwarfs, and very low mass stars. They graduated from Amherst College (Nonotuck land) in May 2021 with a Bachelors of Arts in Astronomy and Physics, receiving a departmental recommendation for summa cum laude honors based on their thesis research. You can read an informal description of their research, peruse various blog posts, and view their astrophotography, over on their personal website.

  • High contrast imaging
  • Self-luminous giant planets
  • Atmospheric retrievals
  • Accretion & accretion variability
  • Graduate (Ph.D.) student in Astronomy, 2021-present

    Johns Hopkins University

  • Bachelors of Arts cum laude, Physics & Astronomy double maj., 2017-2021

    Amherst College


Extrasolar Planetary Systems Imaging Group, STScI
Graduate research assistant to Dr. Laurent Pueyo
Extrasolar Planetary Systems Imaging Group, STScI
Jun 2021 – Present Baltimore, Maryland
  • Currently investigating the formation and atmospheres of Brown Dwarfs and exoplanets using space and ground based telescopes
LSSTC Data Science Fellowship
LSSTC Data Science Fellow
Aug 2021 – Present Chicago, Illinois
Follette Lab, Amherst College
Undergraduate research assistant to Dr. Kate Follette
Follette Lab, Amherst College
Sep 2017 – May 2021 Amherst, Massachussets
  • Conducted angular and spectral differential imaging to search transitional disks for forming exoplanets
  • Calibrated absolute astrometric solution for the Visible Light Adaptive Optics (VisAO) instrument
  • Transition Disk Database Project Lead: coordinated and managed junior researchers in aggregating data and developing a platform for a centralized, public record of the properties of over 200 transition disks
  • Contributed to GAPlanetS project code and data reduction
SIOS Lab, Cornell University
Undergraduate research assistant to Dr. Dmitry Savransky
SIOS Lab, Cornell University
Jun 2020 – Sep 2021 Ithaca, New York
  • Performed space telescope mission yield simulations for Miniaturized Distributed Occulture/Telescope (mDOT) mission
  • Contributed to EXOSIMS project code (Savransky et al. 2017)
Amherst College Department of Physics and Astronomy
Teaching Assistant, Grading Assistant, Amherst College Observatory (ACO) operator
Amherst College Department of Physics and Astronomy
Sep 2019 – May 2021 Amherst, Massachussets
  • TA for ASTR112 (2019F), ASTR337 (2020F), ASTR341 (2021S)
  • Conducted data collection/reduction, telescope setup/operation, grading/rubric construction, and assisted students with coding challenges. Led a lecture on the implementation of fourier domain image filtering.


Owen Scholars Fellowship
Amherst Memorial Fellowship
Charles Hamilton Houston Award
Gregory S. Call Student Researcher
Sarles Fellow

Recent Publications

(2020). Exploring the Transition Disk Population with a public facing database. American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts.

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Where possible I’ve included links to slides or posters associated with my presentations.

The orbit and Hα variability of HD 142527B” STScI Spring Symposium, April 19th-24th, 2021

Adolescent astronomy: Planet formation, Direct imaging, and early-career astronomy research” UMass Astronomy Club, April 20th, 2021

Drums in the Deep: constraining the orbit and photometric variability of the chasm-carving M-dwarf HD 142527B” AAS 237th meeting, Jan 13th, 2021

Exploring the Transition Disk Population with a public facing database” AAS 235th meeting, Jan 7th, 2020

Outreach & Science communication

Science communication - Astronomy Editor, Amherst STEM Network | October 2019 – present

Science communication - Writer, personal blog | June 2018 – present

In the Press

Articles I’ve written or been interviewed for. Last updated May 14th, 2021.

Reaching for the Stars: William Balmer Thesis Spotlight” by Sarah Lapean in The Amherst STEM Network on May 14th, 2021.

The Orbit and Growth of HD 142527B” by William Balmer in Astrobites, March 14th, 2021.

Planetary cradles: UMass/FCAD colloquium speaker Feng Long presents ALMA view of early solar systems” by William Balmer in The Amherst STEM Network Magazine, Issue 1.3, Fall 2020.

Astronomy Summer Research Teams takes Physics Colloquia by Storm1 by William Balmer in The Amherst STEM Network Magazine, Issue 1.3, Fall 2020.

Thoughts on Thesis: William Balmer ’21” by Maxim Melnichuk in The Amherst Student on September 23rd, 2020.

What makes a planet? Daniela Bardalez Gagliuffi seeks answers in the lowest mass stars” by William Balmer in The Amherst STEM Network Magazine, Issue 1.1, Spring 2020.

  1. Series of multiple articles. ↩︎