Rivkin has been studying asteroids since his undergraduate days, with dissertation work consisting of taking and analyzing infrared spectra of asteroids. His focus on asteroids continued in the intervening 21 years since his PhD, with 26 first-author peer-reviewed papers on asteroids and small bodies and as a co-author on an additional 55 peer-reviewed papers as of mid-2018. Many of these focused on NEOs specifically. In addition to these papers, he has led chapters in both the Asteroids III and Asteroids IV books, led and contributed to chapters in other books, and wrote a textbook on small bodies. With a research focus of asteroids, including NEOs, Rivkin has been involved in many planetary defense studies over the years. He was a participant in the 2006 NASA Near-Earth Object Detection and Threat Mitigation Workshop in Vail and contributed to the final report, and participated in several of the AIAA Planetary Defense Conferences since then, and was a member of the "Finding Hazardous Asteroids Using Infrared and
Visible Wavelength Telescopes" study done by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. He is one of two Investigation Leads for the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, launcing in 2021 and impacting the satellite of the Didymos system in 2022.
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