Research scientist in Astrobiology at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. Also affiliated with the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science in Seattle, WA and the Oak Crest Institute of Science in Monrovia, CA.
I study the emergence of life on Earth and ways to search for life elsewhere. I focus on geological / chemical systems that self-organize and exhibit complex behavior, since even though they are not alive, we can use them to understand how the transition from non-life to life might have occurred. I also study geological systems with gradients such as hydrothermal vents, which are important for origin of life and habitability on other worlds. We do planetary environment simulations in the lab including making mini vent chimneys, making our own early Earth and Mars minerals, and simulating the energy in ocean systems using fuel cells. At JPL I am also the Investigation Scientist for the HiRISE instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The other big motivation for my work is outreach and education. I mentor undergraduate and graduate students in my research team and have a particular interest in helping community college students find paths into research and STEM careers. I’m involved with various projects along these lines and always happy to meet like-minded collaborators.
I received my B.S. in Astronomy and Astrophysics from Villanova University and my Ph.D. in Geological Sciences from the University of Southern California. As a student I did internships at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD; Marathon Oil Company in Houston, TX; and JPL in Pasadena, CA. After graduate school I was a post-doctoral fellow at Caltech/JPL and then with the NASA Astrobiology Institute.