Who I Am
I am a planetary scientist who studies the composition of solid surfaces throughout
the solar system. This means that I am interested in the minerals and rock types found on
the surfaces of rocky bodies and the various ices found on the surfaces of icy bodies.
Knowing what these materials are is important for understanding how the interiors and
surfaces of the bodies originally formed and how they evolved over time.
My work includes telescopic and spacecraft observations, laboratory work and computer
My colleagues and I use telescopes located on Earth and on spacecraft to measure the
sunlight that is reflected from the surfaces of objects in the solar system. We use
instruments called spectrometers to measure the reflected light at different wavelengths,
such as blue, green, or red. Various materials will reflect sunlight differently at each
wavelength and this allows us to identify which material is present on a surface.
We also use spectometers in the laboratory to measure the reflected light from
materials that we think may be on other surfaces. We can compare these laboratory
measurements with our telescopic observations in order to more clearly understand the
We can use computers to calculate what the reflectance of individual materials, or
mixtures of materials, would look like at different wavelengths. By comparing these
calculations with the telescopic observations we can more clearly understand the relative
amounts of the materials present on a surface.
My Career Journey
In high school I did not take many science courses and after I received my diploma I
worked at various odd jobs for about eight years. At that time I decided to go to college
and was very interested in geology, the study of Earth. During my junior and senior years
of college I had the opportunity to work with a professor who had been involved in
obtaining laboratory reflectance data for geologic minerals. I was facinated by this
ability to determine surface composition and decided to pursue this interest in graduate
school. I selected a graduate program at another university that had a department that
specialized in telescopic observations and laboratory studies related to understanding
surface composition. While in graduate school I was fortunate to be involved in both
aspects of the work. After completing graduate school I received a position to pursue
this work with an eminant researcher at NASA Ames Research Center. At Ames the focus of
my research took on a new direction by dealing more with computer calculations of the
reflectance of surfaces.