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Committee Membership Information




Project Title: Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Sciences

PIN: DEPS-SSB-16-08        

Major Unit:
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

Sub Unit: Space Studies Board DEPS

RSO:

Smith, David

Subject/Focus Area:  Math, Chemistry, and Physics; Space and Aeronautics


Committee Membership
Date Posted:   11/10/2017


Dr. Erik Asphaug
ERIK ASPHAUG, is a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University and prior to this was a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His research interests center on the use of large-scale computer simulations to study planetary physics on both large and small scales. One focus of his research is the geologic makeup and evolution of asteroids and comets, from which the planets accumulated. Another is what happens when asteroids and comets impact planets, forming craters. A third facet of his research is giant impacts, such as the one believed to have formed the Moon. He is a recipient of the American Astronomical Society’s Harold C. Urey Prize. Dr. Asphaug obtained his B.S. in mathematics and english at Rice University and his Ph.D. in planetary science from the University of Arizona. He served as a member on the National Academies of the Planetary Science Decadal Survey: 2013-2022: Primitive Bodies Panel.



Dr. Alexander G. Hayes
ALEXANDER G. HAYES is an assistant professor of astronomy in the Department of Astronomy at Cornell University. Dr. Hayes has over 13 years of experience in utilizing spacecraft-based platforms to study the properties of planetary surfaces, including an engineering background in instrument design and calibration. His NASA flight project experience includes Cassini, MER, MSL, Mars2020, and the Europa Multiple Flyby Mission. Dr. Hayes has also worked on instrument design and characterization for several Missile Defense Agency Programs including THAAD, SM3, and EKV. His research interests include comparative planetology and solar system exploration, with a special interest in the ocean worlds of the outer solar system. Dr. Hayes is the recipient of the Zeldovich Medal from COSPAR and the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Ronald Greely Early Career Award from AGU, the Sigma Xi Young Scholar Procter Prize, and a NASA Early Career Fellowship. Dr. Hayes recently served as a member of the Science Definition Teams for the Europa Lander and Ice Giants mission concept studies. He earned a M.E. in applied science from Cornell University and his Ph.D. in planetary science from the California Institute of Technology. Dr. Hayes has not previously served on a committee of the National Academies.

Dr. Nita Sahai
NITA SAHAI is a professor and the Ohio Research Scholar in Biomaterials in the Department of Polymer Science at the University of Akron. Her research interests include biomolecular and cellular interactions with biomaterials and minerals, interfacial chemistry, the origins and early evolution of life, and the relationship between molecular-level, nanoscale, and macroscopic properties. Her research group is working determine the potential role of mineral surfaces in the evolution of cell surfaces. Previously, Dr. Sahai was a professor of geochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she received the Romnes Faculty Fellowship. She has served as an editor on a number of publications, including Medical Mineralogy and Geochemistry, Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry series, American Mineralogist, and Geochemical Transactions. She is an investigator on the Simons Collaboration on the Origins of Life, a recipient of the NSF CAREER award, a fellow of the Mineralogical Society of America, as well as the society’s Distinguished Lecturer. She earned a B.S. in geology from Bombay University, a M.S. in geochemistry from the University of Rochester, and her Ph.D. in geochemistry from Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Sahai is a member of the National Academies’ organizing committee for the Searching for Life across Space and Time: A Workshop

Dr. Christopher H. House - (Co-Chair)
CHRISTOPHER H. HOUSE is a professor of geosciences at the Pennsylvania State University. He is also director of the Penn State Astrobiology Research Center, director of the Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium, and holds a faculty appointment in Penn State’s Huck Institute for the Life Sciences. His research interests focus on microbial diversity and cultivation, microbial paleontology, molecular evolution and genomics, astrobiology, and geomicrobiology. Dr. House is a past member of the Planetary Science Subcommittee of the NASA Advisory Council and the Scientific Ocean Drilling Vessel Program Advisory Committee. In addition, he is an Ocean Drilling Program Distinguished Lecturer; a participant in the Beckman Chinese-American Frontiers of Science Symposium; and is an editor of the journal Geobiology. He earned his B.S. in biochemistry and cell biology from the University of California, San Diego and his Ph.D. in geology from the University of California, Davis. Dr. House is the past co-chair of the National Academies’ Standing Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science and member of the organizing committee for Searching for Life across Space and Time: A Workshop.

Dr. William B. McKinnon - (Co-Chair)
WILLIAM B. McKINNON is professor of earth and planetary sciences at Washington University in Saint Louis. He also serves as fellow of the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences. Dr. McKinnon’s research interests include the structure, origin, evolution, geology, and bombardment history of outer planet satellites and dwarf planets; and impact mechanics on rocky and icy bodies. He is a distinguished visiting scientist at the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Dr. McKinnon has received three group achievement awards from NASA, asteroid 9526 Billmckinnon is named for him, and in 2014 he received the G.K. Gilbert Award from the Planetary Geology Division of the Geological Society of America. He earned his B.S. in earth and planetary science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his M.S. in planetary science and a Ph.D. in planetary science and geophysics from the California Institute of Technology. Dr. McKinnon has served as a member of the National Academies’ Standing Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science, the Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration, and the Committee on Priorities for Space Science Enabled by Nuclear Power and Propulsion: A Vision for Beyond 2015.

Dr. Sushil K. Atreya
SUSHIL K. ATREYA is professor of climate and space science and engineering and director of the Planetary Science Laboratory at the University of Michigan. His current research interests include the origin and evolution of planetary and satellite atmospheres, particularly the giant planets, Titan, Mars, and Venus, astrobiology and exoplanets. Dr. Atreya is a co-investigator on NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, Juno-Jupiter Polar Orbiter and Cassini-Huygens missions, and ESA’s Mars Express mission. He was awarded the David Bates Medal for exceptional contributions to planetary and solar system sciences by the European Geosciences Union. He has received the NASA Award for exceptional scientific contributions to the Voyager missions to the giant planets, the NASA Group Achievement Award for outstanding scientific contributions with the Voyager Ultraviolet Spectrometer, and NASA group achievement awards for outstanding scientific contributions with the Galileo Probe mass spectrometer and outstanding contributions to the Galileo Project at Jupiter. Dr. Atreya is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member of the International Academy of Astronautics, and a distinguished visiting scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He is the author of Atmospheres and Ionospheres of the Outer Planets and their Satellites and editor of Origin and Evolution of Planetary and Satellite Atmospheres and two other books. He has served as a co-chair of the Venus Exploration Analysis Group (VEXAG) and as a member of the Steering Committee of the Outer Planets Assessment Group (OPAG). He earned his B.S. and M.S. in physics from the University of Rajasthan, an M.S. in physics from Yale and his Ph.D. in atmospheric and space science from the University of Michigan. Dr. Atreya has served as a member on the National Academies’ Committee on the Assessment of Solar System Exploration, the Panel on Space Sciences, and The Standing Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science.

Dr. Ronald Breaker
RONALD BREAKER (NAS) is an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Henry Ford II Professor of the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University. His graduate studies with Dr. Peter Gilham at Purdue University focused on the synthesis of RNA and the catalytic properties of nucleic acids. As a postdoctoral researcher with Dr. Gerald Joyce at The Scripps Research Institute, Dr. Breaker pioneered a variety of in vitro evolution strategies to isolate novel RNA enzymes and was the first to discover catalytic DNAs or “deoxyribozymes” using this technology. Since establishing his laboratory at Yale, Dr. Breaker has continued to conduct research on the advanced functions of nucleic acids, including ribozyme reaction mechanisms, molecular switch technology, next-generation biosensors, and catalytic DNA engineering. Most recently, his laboratory has established the first proofs that metabolites are directly bound by messenger RNA elements called riboswitches. Dr. Breaker’s research findings have been published in more than 100 scientific papers, book chapters, and patent applications, and his research has been funded by grants from the NIH, NSF, DARPA, the Hereditary Disease Foundation, and from several biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Hellman Family Trust. In recognition of his research accomplishments at Yale, Dr. Breaker received the Arthur Greer Memorial Prize, the Eli Lilly Award in Microbiology, and the Molecular Biology Award from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (2006). Dr. Breaker has cofounded two biotechnology companies and is a scientific advisor for industry and for various government agencies. He serves on the editorial board for the scientific journals RNA Biology, RNA, Interdisciplinary Reviews: RNA, and Chemistry & Biology. He earned a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Purdue University. He served as a member of National Academies’ The Standing Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science.

Dr. John Clarke
JOHN CLARKE is a professor of astronomy at Boston University. Prior to joining the faculty at Boston University, he worked at University of California, Berkeley’s Space Science Laboratory, NASA’s Marshall and Goddard space flight centers, and the University of Michigan. Dr. Clarke served as the deputy project scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope, he was a science team member on the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 project, and has participated in the flight of six sounding rocket experiments. He is presently a co-investigator on several spacecraft instruments, including the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph on the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission, the Probing of Hermean Exosphere by Ultraviolet Spectroscopy on the European Space Agency’s Bepi-Colombo mission to Mercury, and the ultraviolet imaging spectrograph instrument on NASA’s Juno Jupiter orbiter. Dr. Clarke’s main research interests are in planetary atmospheres, their auroral and airglow emission, and ultraviolet space instrumentation. He received his B.S. in physics from Denison University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in physics from the Johns Hopkins University. He was a member of the of the National Academies’ Planetary Science Decadal Survey: 2013-2022: Giant Planets Panel and was also a member of The Standing Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science.



Dr. Bethany L. Ehlmann
BETHANY L. EHLMANN is an assistant professor of planetary science at the California Institute of Technology. She is also a research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Dr. Ehlmann’s research interests focus on planetary surface processes, infrared spectroscopy, the evolution of Mars, and chemical weathering and hydrothermal alteration throughout the solar system, among others. Previously, she was a European Union Marie Curie Fellow and a collaborator on the Mars Exploration rovers during their primary and first extended missions. Dr. Ehlmann is a co-investigator for the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars, participating scientist on the Mars Science Laboratory mission, co-investigator for the Mars-2020 rover Mastcam-Z and SHERLOC instruments, and an affiliate of the Dawn science team. She is a recipient of American Geophysical Union’s Macelwane medal, the Committee on Space Research’s Zeldovich medal, the Mineralogical Society of America, and the Distinguished Lecturer award as well as NASA Group Achievement Awards. Dr. Ehlmann earned an A.B. in earth and planetary sciences and environmental studies from Washington University, St. Louis, she received her M.S. in enviornomental change and management and geography (by res.) from the University of Oxford. She earned a M.S. and Ph.D. in geological sciences from Brown University. She served as a member of the National Academies’ Standing Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science.

Dr. Sarah M. Horst
SARAH M. HÖRST is an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Her primary research interest is atmospheric chemistry, particularly the complex organic chemistry occurring in the atmosphere or on the surface of bodies in the solar system. Previously, Dr. Hörst was a National Science Foundation astronomy and astrophysics postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado. She is a recipient of the Gerard P. Kuiper Memorial Award from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. She earned a B.S. in planetary science and in literature from the California Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. in planetary science from The University of Arizona. Dr. Hörst’s served as a member of the National Academies’ Standing Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science.

Dr. James F. Kasting

JAMES F. KASTING is Evan Pugh Professor at Pennsylvania State University (PSU). His research interests include atmospheric evolution, planetary atmospheres and paleoclimates. Before joining PSU, he spent two years at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado and seven years in the Space Science Division at NASA’s Ames Research Center. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life, and the American Geophysical Union. He has published dozens of papers and two books, The Earth System and How to Find a Habitable Planet. Dr. Kasting is the recipient of the Stanley Miller Medal, also known as the NAS Award in Early Earth and Life Sciences. He earned his A.B. in chemistry and physics from Harvard University, and his M.S. in physics and atmospheric science from the University of Michigan where he also earned his Ph.D. in atmospheric science. Dr. Kasting’s service on National Academies activities includes membership on the Committee for US-USSR Workshop on Planetary Sciences, the Panel to Review Terrestrial Planet Finder Science Goals, and chair of the organizing committee Searching for Life across Space and Time: A Workshop.


Dr. Edwin S. Kite
EDWIN S. KITE is an assistant professor of planetary science at the University of Chicago where he also leads the university’s planetary geoscience research group. His research interests include understanding the habitability of early Mars, modeling surface-interior exchange on Europa and Enceladus, and modeling rocky exoplanets. Previously, Dr. Kite was an O.K. Earl Postdoctoral Fellow at the California Institute of Technology, and a Harry Hess Postdoctoral Research Associate and a postdoctoral research associate in astrophysics, both at Princeton University. He is a recipient of the Greeley Early Career Award in Planetary Science from the American Geophysical Union. Dr. Kite earned his B.A. and M.S. in natural sciences (physical sciences) from the University of Cambridge, England, and his Ph.D. in planetary geoscience from the University of California, Berkeley. He has not previously served on a committee of the National Academies.

Dr. Alyssa Rhoden
ALYSSA RHODEN is an assistant professor of planetary science at Arizona State University in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. Dr. Rhoden utilizes a novel combination of numerical modeling, statistical analysis, and photogeology to interpret the surfaces of icy ocean worlds to assess their interiors, orbits, and habitability through time. Dr. Rhoden has spent over a decade investigating Jupiter’s ocean moon, Europa, and has now expanded her research to include Saturnian moons - Mimas, Enceladus, and Tethys - and Pluto’s moon, Charon. She participated in planning NASA’s multi-flyby mission to Europa and a future mission to land on Europa’s surface. Dr. Rhoden has twice participated in the NAS-Kavli Frontiers of Science program, a forum for promising early career scientists, and she was awarded an Early Career Fellowship by NASA. She received her Ph.D. in planetary science from the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Rhoden has no prior experience working with the National Academies.

Mr. Mark P. Saunders
MARK P. SAUNDERS is an independent consultant. Since retiring from NASA, he has been consulting to various NASA offices providing program/project management and systems engineering expertise. This has included support to the Office of Chief Engineer, the Office of Independent Program and Cost Evaluation, the Mars Program and the Science Office for Mission Assessments (at Langley Research Center). He has participated in the rewriting of NASA’s policy on program/project management; advised and supported the Agency’s independent program/project review process; and has supported the review of various programs and projects. At NASA headquarters Mr. Saunders served as director of the independent program assessment office, where he was responsible for enabling the independent review of the Agency’s programs and projects at life cycle milestones to ensure the highest probability of mission success. At NASA’s Langley Research Center he was initially the deputy director and then the director, Space Access and Exploration Program Office (SAEPO) and had the responsibility for planning, directing and coordinating the center's research, technology, and flight programs for advanced aerospace transportation and human/robotic exploration systems. Prior to this he was the manager of Exploration Programs and led all LaRC space exploration research and development activities supporting the agency’s Aerospace Technology (AST), Human Exploration and Development of Space (HEDS) and Space Science Enterprises (SSE). At the office of space science Mr. Saunders’ served as program manager for the Discovery Program, and at the space station freedom program operations he served as special assistant to the deputy director. He has received a Presidential Meritorious Rank Award, numerous Outstanding Performance awards, and three NASA Outstanding Leadership Medals. He earned his B.S. in industrial engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Mr. Saunder’s National Academies service includes membership on the Committee on the Review of MEPAG Report on Planetary Protection for Mars Special Regions and the Standing Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science.

Dr. David J. Stevenson
DAVID J. STEVENSON (NAS) is the Marvin L. Goldberger Professor of Planetary Science at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Dr. Stevenson’s research focus is theoretical planetary science, including Earth, large moons, and planets in other solar systems. His research applies condensed matter physics and fluid dynamics to data from space missions, including NASA’s Galileo, Cassini and Juno missions. Previously, Dr. Stevenson served as chairman of the Geological and Planetary Sciences Division and as chairman of the faculty at Caltech. Dr. Stevenson was elected as a foreign associate of the National Academies in 2004. He is also a fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the American Advancement for the Association of Science, and the Royal Society (London). He is a winner of the Division of Planetary Science (American Astronomical Society) Urey Prize, AGU’s Whipple Award and the Hess Medal. Dr. Stevenson received his B.S. in physics and an M.S. in theoretical physics from the University of Victoria, and his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Cornell University. He has served on numerous National Academies’ activities including as a member of the Standing Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science, the Panel on Solar System Exploration of the Committee on Priorities for Space Science Enabled by Nuclear Power and Propulsion, the Astro2010 Panel on Planetary Systems and Star Formation, the Committee on Planetary Science Decadal Survey: 2013-2022, and as the vice chair on the Committee on Planetary Science Decadal Survey: 2013-2022: Satellites Panel.

Committee Membership Roster Comments
Note1: Removed Kevin Hand from roster since he resigned from the committee 2/28/2017. Note 2: Removed Norman Pace from roster since he resigned from the committee on 3/28/17. Note 3. added alternate members Asphaug, Sahai, Hayes, and Horst. 11/10/ 2017. Note 4. on 2/28/2018 removed Sarah Stewart from the roster since she resigned effective 1/18/18