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Zahra Essack

Postdoc, University of New Mexico

Research Focus
About Zahra

Zahra Essack is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of New Mexico. She received her Ph.D. (2023) in Planetary Sciences from MIT, where she used a combination of telescope observations, laboratory experiments, and modeling to understand the surfaces, atmospheres, and formation of short-period hot super-Earth exoplanets.

As a Postdoctoral Fellow, Zahra is extending her work to the detection and characterization of cooler, long-period exoplanets with the TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) telescope to improve our understanding of planet formation, and the solar system.

Zahra earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in South Africa, majoring in Physics and Applied Mathematics. Zahra is passionate about improving and advancing DEI in STEM, equitable and inclusive access to education, outreach, and mentorship.

Outside of academia, her interests include cooking, traveling, and swimming.


2020 - Schlumberger Foundation Faculty for the Future Fellowship

2017 - MIT Presidential Fellowship

2017 - National Research Foundation Innovation Master's Scholarship

2015 - UKZN College Deputy Vice Chancellor’s Scholarship

2014 - National Research Foundation Square Kilometer Array Scholarship

2014 - UKZN Vice Chancellor’s Scholarship


University of New Mexico, 08/2023


Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 05/2023


Applied Mathematics (Astrophysics), Other, 01/2018


Physics and Applied Mathematics, Other, 12/2016

Interested in
  • Mentoring
  • Mentorship
  • Speaking
  • Research Experience
  • Postdoc Fellowships
  • Professional Service (e.g. review panels)
  • Science Outreach
  • Consulting
  • DEI/STEM Community Engagement
Contact Zahra


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