My name is Jenna Samuel and I'm an astrophysicist using cosmological simulations to study satellite dwarf galaxies.

I'm a 6th year graduate student in the Physics and Astronomy department at UC Davis. When I'm not working I enjoy making jewelry, baking, stargazing with my telescope, watching Star Trek, and the occasional hike!


I try to understand what the distribution and dynamics of satellite dwarf galaxies can tell us about their formation and evolution within their host's environment. I use hydrodynamic zoom-in simulations of Milky Way-like galaxies from the FIRE (Feedback In Realistic Environments) project to learn about our local cosmological environment. The simulations start with dark matter which is perturbed according to Cosmic Microwave Background constraints. The simulation is then evolved to today, at which point a Milky Way-like dark matter halo is chosen for re-simulation at high resolution with dark matter, stars, and gas.

CV and Publications

Gas Removal and Satellite Quenching

I am working on a project that ties the orbits of satellites to their star formation history and gas content evolution. Specifically, I want to disentangle the roles of internal stellar feedback (supernovae, stellar winds, and photoionization pressure and heating) and external halo environment (ram pressure from the hot gas in the Milky Way’s halo) in regulating the gas content and star formation of satellites.

Satellite Planes

I am investigating the problem of satellite planes using simulations. The satellite plane problem is the spatial and kinematic coherence of satellite dwarf galaxies in a planar or disk-like structure around the Milky Way, Andromeda, and Centaurus A. Previous studies that have looked for such planes in simulations have largely come up empty handed, implying that maybe what we observe around the Milky Way may be exceedingly rare.

Satellite Radial Distribution

My first paper explored the radial distribution of satellite galaxies around both isolated Milky Way-like galaxies and paired Local Group-like systems in the FIRE simulations. Radial distributions of satellites are important because they can test our models of galaxy formation against observations of our own cosmological neighborhood. The clustering of satellites towards their host galaxy is also important in studies of spatial and kinematic coherence of satellites, such as the satellite plane problem. I wrote a Twitter thread that explains the key results from this project.

M106 Satellites

I am the PI of an observing proposal to validate satellite galaxy candidates around M106 using KAST at Lick Obervatory.


I taught intro physics online in Spring 2020 as the instructor of record, for which I designed both recorded and live lectures and engaging online assignments. I have also been a Teaching Assistant for undergraduate physics and astronomy labs, a physics for non-science majors lecture, and upper division math methods for physics majors. All of these roles included time spent grading and giving feedback to students, as well as leading office hours and lab sections. I was a Learning Assistant as an undergraduate at Florida International University. This was my first teaching experience and I helped facilitate introductory physics labs for two years before moving on to the upper division modern physics labs and lecture. There, I helped students run and understand some of the most pivotal physics experiments of the 20th century, from demonstrating the photoelectric effect to the double-slit experiment.

Service and Outreach

I'm passionate about making academia a more inclusive environment.


I have been an active member of the UC Davis Diversity and Inclusion in Physics (DIP) group since 2017. We discuss issues within our department and brainstorm solutions that we implement with the help of a faculty committee. I led the creation of a series of workshops that address imposter syndrome, grad school applications, and seeking out mentorship and research opportunities. You can find diversity, equity, and inclusion resources on our website, Davis DIP.

Public Talks and Demos

Once a month I help put on a local public astronomy event called Astronomy on Tap in Davis. It features two short talks by astronomers and short segments about current events in astronomy. The event always draws a crowd of all ages and gives me a chance to answer people’s questions and let them know what goes on in their local physics and astronomy department. I've given a talk to local high school girls about galaxy simulations and my experience in academia, and I've been part of science demonstrations for local elementary school children.

Astro Study Group

I help organize a graduate student study group that strives to further a broad scientific understanding of astronomy while providing necessary professional development experiences like presentations, CV writing, and website building. Our biweekly meetings were peer-led and helped us learn about each other’s research in detail, discuss review articles, or peer review fellowship application materials.