Associate Professor - York University

I am the Allan I. Carswell Chair for the Public Understanding of Astronomy at York University in Toronto. My research interests are modeling the atmosphere and climate of extrasolar planets with a particular focus on atmospheric biosignatures in Earth-like planets as well as modeling early Earth conditions. In addition to research, I also love engaging with the public on astrophysics and astrobiology.

I was a TED fellow in 2020 and gave the following TED talk:
1.7 million views on - May 2021 TED


Broadly, I am interested in anything related to the field of Astrobiology: the study of the origin of life on Earth and the pursuit of detecting life on other planets/moons in the Universe. Currently we are just now finding planets that are Earth-sized and temperate for the first time in history. In the next two decades, first with James Webb Space Telescope and later with follow-up missions like LUVOIR/HabEx, we will be able to detect the atmospheres of terrestrial extrasolar planets in the habitable zone (HZ). These questions of our origins and the distribution of life in the Universe are the main driving inspiration for my day to day work. Read more here


Teaching is a particular passion of mine, instilled in me from a young age by my father, Mac Rugheimer, who devoted his life to teaching physics. I taught a course of my own design as a visiting lecturer at Tufts University ExCollege in Fall of 2013 called Life on Earth and Beyond. I have also taken many teaching methodology courses to improve my ability to communicate science and my public speaking skills. Public outreach and mentoring in academia are also very important to me. I see scientific literacy as an increasing problem in the world which has sometimes life-threatening consequences such as when people deny evidence based medicine for untested and potentially even harmful alternative therapies or the persistent denial of climate change which is currently estimated to cost over 300,000 people their lives every year. Read more here

Women in STEM Resources

Despite many peer-reviewed studies showing persistent gender and racial bias to this day, many people are either unaware of the depth of this persistent bias. I grew up thinking that the battle already fought successfully decades past. Identical resumes with different gendered or racial names receive significantly different salaries, competance ratings and hireability ranking. I've created this page as a repository of information for research articles, blogs and useful references for those interested in learning about the challenges facing white women and men and women of color in science. Click here for resource page

Harvard Horizons Scholar & Caroline Herschel Prize Winner

This 5 minute video is a summary of my PhD thesis for a public audience, given through the Harvard Horizons Program. I was one of eight PhD students selected to highlight their research at a University wide symposium and through a two month professional development program.

As a postdoc, I received the inaugural Caroline Herschel Prize for a promising junior female astronomer in the UK. For this prize lectureship, I gave an invited talk at the Royal Astronomical Society in London and the Herschel Society in Bath.

I co-host a podcast with Sarah Ballard called "Self-care with Drs. Sarah" where we talk about thriving and being the best researcher you can be in academia by taking care of yourself first. Subsribe on iTunes or listen on Sound Cloud.


I made this 1 minute video about detecting biosignatures on other planets for the GeoBus outreach program at University of St. Andrews.


sarah.rugheimer (at)

Department of Physics and Astronomy
York University
4700 Keele St
Toronto, ON M3J 1P3