What’s New?



Research Associates


Astrobiology Forum





Contact Us

^ People


Zann Gill Zann Gill
Director, NASA U

(M.Arch. Harvard) began her career as a researcher for Buckminster Fuller on tensegrity structures (lightweight, rapidly deployable discontinuous compression structures) and at the Institute for Lightweight Structures (University of Stuttgart, Germany). Early interest in cross-disciplinary innovation led to research on how evolutionary models underpin intellectual creativity and collaborative problem-solving. Her 1986-7 submission to the international competition "Kawasaki: Information City of the 21st Century" tied with Matsushita Corp. for first place and won the Award of the Mayor of Kawasaki. Competition sponsors were the Japan Association for Planning Administration and Mainichi Newspapers with cooperation of ten ministries and three agencies of the Japanese government. She proposed how a networked think tank could guide evolving, emergent urban revitalization from within.

The practical focus of her work at NASA is also on how to tap individual creativity and expertise in a group collaborative problem-solving process. She is now applying those evolutionary principles to the enlistment of a range of scientific experts in the design of the NASA U program and development of its outreach network. Her published papers focus on CPSEs (Collaborative Problem-Solving Environments) as vehicles to support collaborative problem-solving. She is currently writing a book on the process of hypothesis construction in origin of life, alife, and AI (first presented as a paper at the International Congress on the Origin of Life 2002). > Web site link

Jonathan D. Trent Jonathan D. Trent
Associate Director, Bio-Info-Nano Technology in Astrobiology

received his Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography studying marine microbiology. Dr. Trent spent six years in Europe at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Germany, the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, and the University of Paris at Orsay in France. In Europe he studied biochemistry and molecular biology and he returned to the U.S.A. to work at the Boyer Center for Molecular Medicine at Yale Medical School for two years before establishing a biotechnology group at Argonne National Laboratory. In 1998 he moved to NASA Ames Research Center to be part of NASA’s Astrobiology program, which is focused on understanding the limits of life on Earth and on exploring the possibilities of finding life beyond Earth.

For many years Dr. Trent has conducted research on the molecular adaptations that allow microbes to live in habitats that seem inhospitably extreme to us. His research on these so called “extremophiles” has focused on understanding the role of a specific class of proteins known as heat shock or stress proteins that are particularly abundant in organisms living in hot sulfuric acid (85°C/pH 2). While seemingly esoteric, the stress proteins in extremophiles proved to be closely related to a class of human proteins that were of unknown function (Trent et al. Nature vol. 354: 490-493). His group is now studying these proteins in both extremophiles and humans to determine their critical function.

In 1999 Dr. Trent proposed that the self-assembly properties of biomolecules combined with genetic engineering can be used as significant ‘tools’ for developments in nanotechnology. His group at NASA Ames Research Center has demonstrated that genetically modified proteins from extremophiles that self–assemble into two dimensional arrays can be used as templates for organizing conducting and semiconducting nanoparticles with nanometer resolution. His group continues to explore the extremes of biology and how biomolecules interface with nanotechnology. > Web site link

Christopher P. McKay Christopher P. McKay
Associate Director, Astrophysics and Planetary Sciences

received his Ph.D. in AstroGeophysics from the University of Colorado in 1982 and has been a research scientist with the NASA Ames Research Center since that time. His current research focuses on the evolution of the solar system and the origin of life. He is also actively involved in planning for future Mars missions including human settlements. Chris has been involved with polar research since 1980, traveling to the Antarctic dry valleys and more recently to the Siberian and Canadian Arctic to conduct research in these Mars-like environments.

His current research activities include field studies in extreme arid environments, drilling for microorganisms in ancient frozen ground, and studies of ice-covered lakes. On the theory side he is involved in radiative transfer studies of Titan and climate models of past and future Mars. Selected recent publications include:
  • McKay, C.P., E.I. Friedmann, B. Gomez-Silva, L. Caceres-Villanueva, D.T. Andersen, and R. Landheim, Meteorological conditions and surface moisture in the Extreme Arid Region of the Atacama Desert: Four years of observations including the El Nino of 1997-98, Astrobiology, in press, 2002.
  • McKay, C.P., Planetary protection for a Europa surface sample return: The Ice Clipper Mission. Adv. Space Res. 30, 1601-1605, 2002. McKay, C.P., The search for a second genesis of life in our Solar System, in First Steps in the Origin of Life in the Universe, ed. J. Chela-Flores, pp 269-277, 2001.
  • Navarro-Gonzalez, R., C.P. McKay, D. N. Mvondo, A possible nitrogen crisis for Archaean life due to reduced nitrogen fixation by lightning. Nature 412, 61-64, 2001.
  • McKay, C.P. and M.M. Marinova, The physics, biology, and environmental ethics of making Mars habitable, Astrobiology, 1, 89-109, 2001.

Andrew Pohorille Andrew Pohorille
Associate Director, Computational Astrobiology

received his Ph.D. from the Department of Physics, University of Warsaw. Since 1992 he has been professor of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of California San Francisco. He joined NASA-Ames in 1996. Currently he heads the NASA Center for Computational Astrobiology and Fundamental Biology. In 2002 he was awarded NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal. He co-authored over 80 peer-reviewed publications in these and related areas.

Andrew is the Director of the NASA Center for Computational Astrobiology and Fundamental Biology which focuses on simulating the structure and function of biomolecular and cellular systems. Other research activities include computational modeling of the origin of life and genetic and regulatory networks, and the development of novel computational methods for parallel and distributed computing.

Joseph Cameron Joseph Cameron
External Advisor, Recruitment of Minority Talent

received his Ph.D. in Endocrinology and Developmental Biology from Michigan State University in 1973 and has since served as Professor and Director of the Biomedical Sciences Program at Jackson State University (1978-1984), Acting Dean of the School of Science and Technology at Jackson State and more recently (1986-present) as Professor and Director of the Minority Institutional Research Training Program (a program funded at $2+m.) and also Director of the Bridges to Baccalaureate Degree Program (a program funded at $1.5m.) and President of the Bridges to the Future Directors Organization. Dr. Cameron’s greatest contribution to the scientific community is his impact upon the training of under-served minorities throughout the educational pipeline, i.e. high school, community college, university and doctoral degree levels.

He has recruited, motivated, and mentored hundreds of minority and non-minority students throughout the educational pipeline. He has also served as Chair and/or member of many Special Emphasis Panels dealing with Minority Programs for the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Center for Minority Health Disparities, National Institutes of Health. He has published extensively and produced over 30 masters level students. He’s listed in Who’s Who Among Black Americans and has served as a consultant to the National Science Foundation and many other organizations.

Julie Litzenberger Julie Litzenberger
Resident Assistant, Summer 2003

Julie was a student in the 2002 NASA Astrobiology Academy and has returned as a resident assistant for the 2003 Academy. She spent the past year working in the Bone and Signaling Laboratory at NASA Ames, and will begin a Ph.D. in Biomechanical Engineering at Stanford University in September 2003.

Mike Hannon Mike Hannon
Resident Assistant, Summer 2003

Mike completed is degree in Mechanical Engineering at Notre Dame and will be starting Biomedical Engineering studies at Columbia University. He plans in the future to go to medical school.

Lou Allamandola Lou Allamandola

brings to The Astrochemistry Lab 20 years of experience in pioneering laboratory studies of ices of interstellar and planetary interest. Formally trained as a specialist in low temperature spectroscopy at the University of California at Berekeley under the tutelage of Professor George C. Pimentel, followed by postdoctoral research on energy transfer at cryogenic temperatures with Professor Joseph W. Nibler at Oregon State University, Lou worked for seven years in the Astrophysics Laboratory at Leiden University in the Netherlands where he developed the techniques required to prepare and study laboratory analogs of interstellar/pre-cometary ice grains using spectroscopic methods. At Leiden, from 1976 until 1983, he directed the research of six Ph.D. students. He established a new laboratory at NASA’s Ames Research Center in 1984. He opened up the field of interstellar polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) with Xander Tielens and John Barker, and is heavily involved in the laboratory studies of PAHs under relevant interstellar conditions. He has also participated in astronomical measurements of infrared spectra using the Kuiper Airborne Observatory, the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility, and the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope.

Dr. Allamandola has served on several NASA advisory councils and is currently an active member of the Origins Subcommittee at NASA Headquarters. He has served on several scientific organizing committees and as proceedings editor for international symposia. He received NASA-Ames’ H. Julian Allen Award for Best Scientific Paper from Ames in 1985, NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 1992, and was named an Ames Associate Fellow in 1995. Recent publications.

Leslie Bebout Leslie Bebout

received a Bachelor’s in Biology from Rhodes College in 1981. She then pursued a Geology Master’s degree, which she received in 1985 from UNC Chapel Hill.

Lee then worked as a research associate at the University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Sciences on a variety of estuarine, near shore and open ocean research sites, with emphasis on nitrogen dynamics and cyanobacterial ecology. Lee then received a stipendium to pursue her Ph.D. in Microbial Ecology, conducting research at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, in Bremen Germany and receiving her degree from the University of Aarhus, Denmark in 1998.

Max Bernstein Max Bernstein

received his B.S. in chemistry from McGill University in Montreal and Ph.D. from Cornell University working on kinetics on reactions in the presence of TMEDA with Dr. David Collum.

At NASA Ames he studies the (organic) photochemistry of interstellar/cometary ices with Drs. Louis J. Allamandola and Scott A. Sandford. Dr. Bernstein has won the Zeldovich Medal (awarded jointly by the Russian Academy of Sciences and COSPAR, an international space organization) two of NASA Ames Space Science Division Awards, an Ames honor award, an American Chemical Society Newsmaker award, and has twice been member of a team that won NASA’s group achievement award. He has contributed to a range of books, including the CRC Dictionary of Geophysics, Astrophysics and Astronomy, published a number of technical papers in peer reviewed scientific journals, including in the prestigious Science and Nature. For a non-technical version of what he does and why we care you can read online versions of his articles forScientific American and Strange Horizons, Wired News, ABC News, You can listen to one of his interviews on line with the BBC. To find out more, visit the web site for The Astrochemistry Lab.

Richard Boyle Richard Boyle

is Director of the BioVIS Technology Center. The Center focuses on the visualization, imaging and simulation of biological structure and function. He received a B.A. in (bio) psychology from the University of Colorado, Boulder, an M.Sc. in physiology from McGill University, Montréal, Canada, and a Ph.D. in biological sciences from the Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy.

Appointments included faculty of the Department of Otolaryngology/Head-Neck Surgery at the Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) in Portland, the Departments of Physiology and Pharmacology and Neurosciences Graduate Program at OHSU, and adjunct scientist at the R. S. Dow Neurological Sciences Institute (formally of the Good Samaritan Hospital, Legacy Health System, and now OHSU). Since 1984, he has regularly conducted hair cell studies at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts. In April 2000, he joined NASA Ames Research Center.

Nathalie Cabrol Nathalie Cabrol

is a planetary geologist at NASA Ames and SETI Institute. Her research focuses on aqueous environments favorable to Life on Mars, their exploration (robotic and human) and the study of terrestrial analogues. She is a science team member for the 2003 Mars Exploration Rover and the project lead for a NASA Astrobiology Institute-funded program of scientific expeditions exploring the highest lakes on Earth in the Andes. On a 2002 expedition in the Andes she explored the highest lake on Earth as an analog to ancient Martian lakes.

Tim Castellano Tim Castellano

has been at NASA Ames for 16 years, first as an aerospace engineer and manager working on space flight projects and more recently (since his 2001 Ph.D in Astronomy and Astrophysics from the The University of California at Santa Cruz) as an observational astronomer seeking transits of extrasolar planets by the photometric method. Before coming to NASA Ames, Tim worked at Fermilab and Lockheed and has a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in Physics and Earth and Space Sciences.

Tim is committed to help communicate the excitement of NASA’s challenges and to help involve the general public and students in NASA missions. The quest for worlds orbiting other stars has occupied the minds of some of history’s greatest thinkers, but only in the last few years has irrefutable proof of the existence of extrasolar planets been found. Searching for transits is an ideal student project because it can literally be done in a backyard, given the right equipment and expertise. This project presents an opportunity rare in modern science, the ability to make fundamental discoveries without access to a multi-million dollar research facility and without having to be a small part of a huge collaboration. The study of extrasolar planets is dynamic; further breakthroughs are just around the corner. Besides his "day job" as an astronomer, Tim also teaches Introductory Astronomy at San Jose State University (where he received his MSAE in 1993). Click here for Tim’s rooftop observatory and the results of previous summer student projects.

Bill Clancey Bill Clancey

Dr. William J. Clancey is Chief Scientist for Human-Centered Computing at NASA Ames Research Center, Computational Sciences Division, where he manages the Work Systems Design && Evaluation Group. He is on leave from the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, Pensacola.

Clancey’s research includes work practice modeling, distributed multi-agent systems, and the ethnography of field science. Projects in his group include participation in MER mission operations, simulation of a day-in-the-life of the ISS, knowledge management for future launch vehicles, and developing flight systems that make automation more transparent.

Clancey has degrees in Mathematical Sciences (BA, Rice University, 1974) and Computer Science (PhD, Stanford University, 1979). At the Knowledge Systems Laboratory of Stanford University (1974-1987), Clancey developed some of the earliest artificial intelligence programs for explanation, the critiquing method of consultation, tutorial discourse, and student modeling. Prior to joining NASA, he was a founding member of the Institute for Research on Learning (1987-1997) where he co-developed the methods of business anthropology in corporate environments. > Web site link

Malcolm Cohen Malcolm Cohen

is currently the Chief of the Human Information Processing Research Branch in the Human Factors Research and Technology Division at NASA-Ames Research Center. He received his B.A. from Brandeis, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, all in various fields of Psychology. Previously, he was a research scientist and the Chief of the Neurosciences Branch in the Life Sciences Division at Ames. He has supervised a range of Postdoctoral Fellows, Graduate Students, and Visiting Faculty, and has held guest faculty positions at Drexel University, NC State University, San Jose State University, the Naval Postgraduate School, SUNY, and Stanford University, where he is currently a consulting Professor in the Program in Human Biology.

He also has won various awards, including the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, the Aerospace Medical Association’s Environmental Science and Raymond F. Longacre Awards, and NASA Group Achievement Awards for the Lunar and Mars Exploration Initiative Team, the Neurolab Spacelab Mission Science Team, and the NASA Astrobiology Team. He has presented and published more than one hundred scientific papers. For more information, see the NASA Ames PBA Group http://pbagroup.arc.nasa.gov/cohen.htm and the NASA Ames Human Factors Division http://human-factors.arc.nasa.gov/ihh/

George Cooper George Cooper

received his Ph.D. in chemistry from Arizona State University in 1993 and his B.S. in Chemistry in 1982 from Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI. He is a Principal Investigator (since 1995) at NASA-Ames Research Center conducting research on molecular and stable isotope analysis of meteoritic organic compounds to determine their cosmo-chemical origins. He began his career as a Postdoctoral Fellow at NASA-Ames and is now a civil servant in the Exobiology Branch at Ames. His research seeks to understand early Solar System organic chemistry and the possible contribution of extraterrestrial organic compounds to the origin of life. He has recent papers in Nature and Science on his discovery of various types of compounds in meteorites including some that are similar to nucleic acid (DNA, RNA) components. In his time at Ames he has mentored several students from underrepresented universities and currently has scientific collaborations with two HBCUs.

Hector D'Antoni Hector D’Antoni

is a Senior Research Scientist at the Ecosystem Science and Technology Branch, NASA Ames Research Center. Biology and Remote Sensing, Effects of Stratospheric Ozone/UV-B Radiation on plants, Paleoecology and Paleoclimatology, Astrobiology, Global Change. He received his M.S. in Anthropology, 1969 – University of La Plata, Argentina.

Specialization in Modern and Quaternary Palynology, 1971- University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Ph.D. in Natural Sciences, 1976 – University of La Plata. Post-Doctoral Studies. Ecology and Paleoecology, 1978-79 – University Stuttgart-Hohenheim, Germany. 2000 NASA Award for Multidisciplinary Research (Astrobiology Team). 1995 Professor “Ad-Honorem”, U. of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus. 1989 National Research Council, Senior Research Associateship at NASA/ARC. 1988-89 Chariman, Biology Commission, CONICET, Argentina. 1988. 1988 Professor "Ad-Honorem" U. of Buenos Aires. 1987 Humboldt-Foundation Award. 1986 Volkswagenwerk Foundation Award. 1985 Humboldt-Foundation Award. 1983 Biology Award, Coca-Cola Corporation in the Arts and Sciences. 1978 Fellow, Humboldt Foundation 1975 Fellow, John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and 1971 Fellow, Royal Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He has engaged in paleoenvironmental studies in South America, new approaches to paleoecology, created and directed research laboratories and institutes (1970-present). Principal Investigator of Effects of solar UV-B radiation on plants project, 9 modern pollen research projects, 15 projects in paleoecology, paleoclimatology, and Astrobiology also Biomolecular research and technology development 1995-2002. Reviewer: Ameghiniana (1987), Darwiniana (1988-89), Acta Botanica Mexicana (1991-91). Grana (1993-95), Aerobiology (1996). Geophysical Research Letters (2000). Project Reviewer: NASA's MTPE and ESE, USDA, CONICET, FONACYT. Boards: Biology Commission, CONICET, 1984-89. NASA Ames Science Advisory Committee, 1996-1998.

David Des Marais David Des Marais

received a Ph.D. in Geochemistry from Indiana University in 1974. His long-term research interests have been the biogeochemical carbon cycle and the early evolution of Earth and its biosphere. His areas of specialization have included the stable isotope geochemistry of carbon in lunar samples, meteorites and oceanic basalts, the biogeochemistry of microbial communities in hypersaline environments, and the biogeochemistry of ancient (Precambrian) carbonates and organic matter.

He serves on the editorial boards of the two journals Astrobiology and Geobiology. He is the principal investigator of the Ames Research Center team of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. Des Marais is an interdisciplinary scientist for astrobiology on both the Mars Exploration Rover 2003 science operations working group and the Mars 2005 CRISM infrared spectrometer.

Edna De Vore Edna De Vore

is Deputy Chief Executive Director at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, CA. She co-directs the education and public outreach (E/PO) programs for two major NASA research missions: NASA’s SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) airborne observatory, and Kepler, a Discovery Mission that seeks Earth-sized planets around other stars. The NASA E/PO programs are conducted in partnership with other science education organizations.

Edna has presented more than 200 invited talks and teacher workshops across the nation. Most recently, she was the US co-chair for the Fulbright Symposium 2002: Science Education in Partnership. She has received numerous honors for her work including a Professional Award for Outstanding Contributions to Amateur Astronomy, NASA Ames Research Center Employee Award, the US Department of Education Christa McAuliffe Teaching Fellow Award, and an NSF Fellowship for her MS in Astronomy.

Paul Espinosa Paul Espinosa

Since April 1995, Paul Espinosa has provided engineering leadership as a developer of animal habitats for Shuttle and Space Station applications as a member of the Astrobiology and Space Research Directorate at Ames Research Center, California. Currently, he is the project manager of the Advanced Animal Habitat-Centrifuge (AAH-C) for the Space Station Biological Research Project. In addition he is the project lead for the development of 3 other biological research habitats for the ISS.

He works on all aspects of the hardware development including proposal reviews, trade studies, hardware conception, design, fabrication, verification, and as COTR for the habitat development. Coordinated and participated in numerous ground tests with rodents (rats and mice) in the AAH and other rodent space flight habitats. He has flown aboard NASA’s KC-130 (zero-g) plane 7 times with animal habitat hardware to validate the designs for micro-gravity flight. He developed hardware that flew aboard the STS-90 shuttle flight in 1998 to support 4 rodent habitats flown during the mission.

He has been a NASA employee since 1988 and his early experience at Ames was as a test engineer for various research aircraft including a test director for guidance and control system research on a UH-60 helicopter and the aircraft manager for the XV-15 tiltrotor experimental aircraft.

His publications include: “Considerations in the Development of Habitats for the Support of Live Rodents on the International Space Station”, “Tiltrotor Research Aircraft Composite Blade Repairs - Lessons Learned”, and “Drill and Tapping Guide for Composite and Metal Components with Uneven Surfaces”. He is an avid rock climber, practitioner of the martial arts and manages to go surfing once in a while.

Friedemann Freund Friedemann Freund

thinks crystals are fascinating objects, mostly because of their defects and impurities. His research interests lie with defects and impurities in minerals, which derive from their interaction with the common gases/fluids in the natural environment: water, carbon dioxide, nitrogen. He’s found reactions inside the dense matrix of minerals, by which hydrogen, carbon and (probably) nitrogen become chemically reduced, while oxygen anions become oxidized.

Studying these processes has led him to become interested in the Origin of Life, in the nature of the organics in interstellar dust, and in the global oxidation of terrestrial planets. The valency changes among the oxygens turn rocks, which are insulators, into p-type semiconductors. This has opened a door to study non-seismic pre-earthquake phenomena from a new perspective.

Tori Hoehler Tori Hoehler

is a biogeochemist who has been with the NASA Astrobiology Institute since the selection of Ames as one of the original member institutes in 1998. His interests lie in studying the chemical interactions between organisms (particularly microorganisms) and their planetary environment - specifically, the way in which energy availability shapes and limits the biosphere, and the mechanisms by which the biosphere alters the chemistry of the environment.

Andrew Hock Andrew Hock

was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio and received his B.A. in Astronomy-Physics from Colgate University. He is currently a third-year graduate student en route to a Ph.D. in Geophysics and Space Physics from the UCLA Department of Earth and Space Sciences. There, he studies the habitability and longevity of heated lake environments on Mars and the surface geomorphology of shallow ground ice deposits. The NASA GSRP program supports this work as well as his role as the geophysics task lead for the Ames-led Licancabur expedition to the highest lake in the world. > Web site link

Linda Jahnke Linda Jahnke

is a microbiologist and research scientist in the Exobiology Branch. Her primary interests are identifying lipid biomarkers in microorganisms and establishing the carbon isotope fractionation associated with their biosynthesis.

A variety of lipids are present in microorganisms that can provide information related to community structure and microbial abundance. Work in her laboratory currently involves lipid analysis of hypersaline microbial mats, and methanogen and cyanobacterial cultures. The evolution of these organisms have played a crucial role in the history of Earth's biogeochemical cycles. Her work seeks evidence to interpret paleoenvironments.

Donald Gregory James Donald Gregory James

is Education Director at NASA Ames, providing overall leadership and guidance for NASA’s education presence in the 10-state Western U.S. region. James serves as Head of the Education Office, supervising a staff of fourteen civil servants, providing management oversight of over forty contractors, and accountable for a budget of approximately $7.2M. From September 2002 through February 2003, James was detailed to NASA HQ, helping establish the new Education Enterprise and writing the new NASA Strategic Plan (2003).

James began his NASA career as a Presidential Management Intern at the Goddard Space Flight Center in 1982. He transferred to NASA Ames Research Center in 1984. James established the Ames Education Technology Team as a core competency of the Education Office. He is also responsible for Minority University Research Education Programs at NASA Ames. Under his leadership, Ames successfully advocated for increases in the Center’s investments in Minority Institutions, increased the number of Minority University student interns by 15%, and advocated for Minority Institutions’ participation in the NASA Research Park at Ames.

Peter Jenniskens Peter Jenniskens

is the Principal Investigator of the NASA and USAF sponsored Leonid Multi-Instrument Aircraft Campaign that studied the recent spectacular Leonid storms for clues about the origin of prebiotic organic molecules on Earth, the dynamics of comet dust ejection, and the impact danger to satellites. The campaign consisted of night time two-plane international research missions to Japan (1998), Israel (1999), CONUS (2001) and Spain (2002), involving ~ 35 participating researchers of 7 nationalities. This included students of the NASA Astrobiology Academy. The 1998 Leonid MAC mission was NASA’s first Astrobiology mission.

Peter is formally trained as an astronomer and laboratory astrophysicist at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands under the tutelage of Professors Harm Habing and Mayo Greenberg, where he did astronomical measurements of interstellar matter at UV, optical, mid-IR, and radio wavelengths, and completed the first survey of Diffuse Interstellar Bands in the optical spectra of obscured stars with F. Xavier Desert. In the laboratory, he investigated the chemical evolution of organic matter under UV photo-processing in the interstellar medium. After his graduation in 1992, he investigated the physical properties of amorphous ices at NASA Ames Research Center’s exobiology branch, using an adapted electron microscope by Dr. David F. Blake.

Since 1995, Peter has been employed with the SETI Institute and works at NASA Ames and SETI on the dynamics of meteor showers, the physical processes in meteors, and the clues they can provide about the origin of prebiotic organic molecules on Earth. He brought to the field the use of modern spectroscopic and imaging techniques. He correctly predicted the return of the 1995 alpha-Monocerotid shower and continues to do field studies of meteor showers. By initiating and organizing the ambitious Leonid storm observing campaigns, he helped rejuvenate the field of meteor shower research and served as organizer of special sessions at COSPAR, EGU, and AGU and editor of the book on Leonid storm research.

Jenniskens received the NASA Ames Honor Award for his lead of the Astrobiology Leonid Mission Project Team, and two outstanding research awards for his studies of ices and the Leonid meteor showers. Jenniskens received the Professional Award from the Astronomical Association of Northern California. He is chair of the IAU Commission 22 Professional-Amateur Collaboration Working Group. > Web site link

Chuck Jorgensen Chuck Jorgensen

received his Ph.D. in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Colorado Boulder in 1973. Since then has held positions in academia, industry, and government including Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Colorado. the US Army Research Institute, Martin Marietta, and Oak Ridge National Laboratories. He has been with NASA Ames Research Center since 1990 where he served as Chief of the Intelligent Systems Technology and Computational Systems Research Branches. He is currently Chief Scientist of the NASA Neuro Engineering Laboratory.

Dr. Jorgensen has authored over 100 publications in human factors, robotics, and neural networks and is a recipient of numerous awards and patents including “Most Innovative Technology Award” from the American Nuclear Society, Engram Award from the Department of Defense, the NASA Outstanding Engineering Achievement Medal in 1995 for new neural network paradigms, NASA Exceptional Achievement medal for work in Aeronautics in 1998, and Exceptional Service Medal for outstanding contributions to neural computing in 2001. His current research interests involve neural network adaptive control of high performance air and spacecraft, EMG/EEG human machine interfaces, and revolutionary computing architectures based on dynamical systems and biological cell models.

Melissa Kirven-Brooks Melissa Kirven-Brooks

received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Brown University in 1982. She received her Doctor of Philosophy degree at MIT in 1988, examining the effect of Vitamin A (retinol and retioic acid) on the synthesis and degradation of the cell matrix protein fibronectin. Melissa then completed postdoctoral fellowships at Medical Schools of Stanford University and Tufts University examining carbohydrate metabolism and protein degradation.

Melissa joined the Space Station Biological Research Project in 1996 working on the development of a general purpose incubator and a cell culture unit for the International Space Station. Currently her lab is examining the growth characteristics of the model organisms yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), nematodes (Caenorhabditis elegans), mouse eared cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) and the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) in anticipation of the launch of the SSBRP Incubator on the first Fundamental Biology flight. She has mentored students in the Foothill-De Anza Program, SHARP and Educational Associates programs and will work to further interactions between these groups and the NASA Academy for Astrobiology.

David Lamb David Lamb

David is an engineer and scientist by training, though with a philosopher’s bent. He completed his undergraduate in Civil Engineering in 1996. In 2000, he finished a Masters in Space Studies (with a geology minor). 2003 marks his fourth summer spent with the Academy and one-year with the NASA Astrobiology Institute. In the fall of ’03 he starts a Geological Sciences/Ph.D. program at the University of California at Santa Barbara. > Web site link

Emily R. Morey-Holton Emily R. Morey-Holton

has appointments at Stanford, University of California-San Francisco, and University of the Pacific Dental School, but her full time position is at NASA-Ames Research Center. Her primary research is on gravity and the growing skeleton, but, as a NASA employee, she has been involved with projects as diverse as exobiology/origin of life, global biology, space biology/ biomedicine, and planning for lunar/Mars laboratories. She has published over 300 papers and abstracts primarily on aspects of calcium metabolism, bone growth, and bone biomechanics.

She has participated as Principal Investigator or CoInvestigator in experiments on five Russian unmanned biological satellites as well as three on the U. S. Shuttle Spacelabs (SL2, SLS1, SLS2) and four Shuttle middeck locker (STS45, 53, and two on 56). She has received numerous awards including Fellow of the AAAS, WVU Academy of Distinguished Alumni, American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology Founders Award for outstanding scientific contribution to Gravitational Biology, AIAA Jeffries Medical Research Award, NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, NASA Special Achievement Award, NASA-Ames Associate Fellowship, and NASA-Ames H. Julian Allen Award.

David Morrison David Morrison

has been the Director of Space at NASA-Ames Research Center, where he managed basic and applied research programs in the space, life, and Earth sciences. Dr. Morrison received his Ph.D. in Astronomy from Harvard University, and until he joined NASA he was Professor of Astronomy at the University of Hawaii, where he also directed the 3-meter NASA Infrared Telescope Facility of Mauna Kea Observatory.

Internationally known for his research on small bodies in the solar system, Dr. Morrison is the author of more than 120 technical papers and has published a dozen books. He is currently active as an Interdisciplinary Scientist on the Galileo mission, and he is the recent recipient of the Klumpke-Roberts Award of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for contributions to science education as well as NASA Outstanding Leadership medals for contributions to the Galileo Mission and for dealing with the hazard of asteroid and comet impacts.

Yvonne Pendleton Yvonne Pendleton

Dr. Pendleton received a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, an M.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford University, and a Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

She has held a research position as an astrophysicist at NASA Ames Research Center since 1979. The goal of her research program is to understand the composition of the organic material found in the interstellar medium and to investigate the incorporation of the organic material from space into the early Earth environment. She has found strikingly similar signatures from hydrocarbon molecules in the distant dust of other galaxies, in the dust from our own galaxy, and in carbon-bearing meteorites. This suggests the basic building blocks of life are widespread and available for incorporation into newly forming planetary systems throughout the universe.

Elected a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences in 2003, Dr. Pendleton has published over 60 papers in scientific journals, has edited two scientific books, and has appeared in several PBS programs. She has an asteroid named after her (7165 Pendleton) and is very active in education outreach. Yvonne served as a co-principal investigator for the Voyages Through Time project, a ninth grade level integrated science course on CD Rom and has participated as a Project Astro astronomer for the Astronomical Society of the Pacific since 1994. She makes regularly scheduled classroom visits to local schools and has given public talks on a variety of astronomical topics around the Bay Area. Presented with the NASA Outstanding Mentor award in 1996, she continues to work with students at many institutions and post doctoral researchers at Ames Research Center.

April E. Ronca April E. Ronca

leads the Developmental Biology Laboratory in the Gravitational Research Branch at NASA Ames Research Center. Dr. Ronca received her B.S. in Psychology and her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the Ohio State University. Dr. Ronca was Visiting Assistant Professor and Associate Research Scientist for the Program in Neural Science at Indiana University from 1993 to 1998. Dr. Ronca joined the Life Sciences Division at Ames in 1998 and is Principal Investigator on NIH- and NASA-funded projects focussed on mammalian pregnancy, parturition and the transition from prenatal to postnatal life. Current studies utilize neural, hormonal, and behavioral techniques to elucidate effects of environmental variables, especially gravity, on reproductive and ontogenetic mechanisms in mammals.

Dr. Ronca has published over 40 papers on the transition from prenatal to postnatal life, maternal-offspring interactions, and gravity and development. Dr. Ronca serves as principal investigator and mentor for the Astrobiology Institute. She is a member of the American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology, International Society for Developmental Psychobiology, Society for Neuroscience, Sigma Xi, and serves as the Annual Meeting Program Coordinator for the International Society for Developmental Psychobiology.

Lynn J. Rothschild Lynn J. Rothschild

an evolutionary biologist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, is immersed in the field of Astrobiology. She has broad training in biology, with degrees from Yale University, Indiana University, and Brown University. At NASA her research has focused on how life has evolved in the context of the physical environment, both here and potentially elsewhere.

She has co-edited a book on the subject entitled, "Evolution on Planet Earth: The Impact of the Physical Environment" which will be published in the spring of 2003. Rothschild has studied carbon metabolism and DNA damage and repair in the laboratory setting and on algal mats, work that has taken her to field sites in Baja, Yellowstone National Park and thermal areas on New Zealand, and hopefully some day to Mars.

As a result of this work she has become an acknowledged authority in the study of extremophiles, and wrote a critical review on them for Nature (2001). Recent honors have included election to the Presidency of the Society of Protozoologists, and as a fellow to the Linnean Society of London. She is a founding editor of the International Journal of Astrobiology. In the last few years she has made several television and radio appearances, including on the Discovery Channel and ABC World News Tonight, and lectures worldwide, most recently in the Vatican, Windsor Castle and Japan.

Scott Sandford Scott Sandford

is a member of Ames' Astrophysics Branch and is a co-leader of Ames’ Astrochemistry Laboratory. He has extensive experience in the fields of meteoritics. He is an editor of the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science and has helped find many meteorites in Antarctica, some of them quite famous [or perhaps infamous]. Remote Antarctic locations he has worked at include the Allan Hills area, the Lewis Cliff area, and Graves Nunataks. Dr. Sandford also does extensive work in the areas of laboratory astrophysics, astrochemistry, and astrobiology, and participates in infrared astronomy studies using ground-based, airborne, and spaceborne observatories. He has used the combined techniques of infrared astronomy and laboratory astrophysics to identify a number of new molecular species in space, many of interest to exobiology (for example, organic compounds in the diffuse ISM). Current laboratory interests include the study of the physical, chemical, and spectroscopic properties of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons(PAHs) and astrophysical ice analogs relevant to interstellar, cometary, and planetary environments.

Dr. Sandford is the Principal Investigator on the AstroBiology Explorer (ABE) MIDEX Mission concept. ABE is a cryogenically cooled infrared telescope that will measure the infrared spectra of a wide variety of objects and environments in space. These spectra will be used to understand the origin and evolution of organic compounds in space. He is also a Co-Investigator on the STARDUST Discovery Mission. The purpose of this mission is to collect a sample from a comet and return it to Earth for study! The STARDUST spacecraft was launched on February 7, 1999 and intercepted Comet Wild 2 on January 2, 2004. The collected sample will be returned to Earth for study in January of 2006. Dr. Sandford also assisted with testing of the sample return capsule filter for the GENESIS Discovery Mission.

Dr. Sandford’s work has been recognized through a number of awards, including the Antarctic Service Medal, and numerous individual and group honors. He was named an Ames Associate Fellow in 2000.

Many of Dr. Sandford’s major publications can be found here. More complete lists for publications from 1979-1992 and 1993-current are also available.

Jay Skiles Jay Skiles

is a Research Scientist at NASA Ames Research Center. He has worked in terrestrial ecosystem modeling, world grasslands, Arctic, arid, and semiarid ecosystems, African grazinglands and operations research. He received a B.S. in biology from the University of Redlands (1969), an M.S. in botany from the University of Idaho (1971), and a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of California, Irvine (1977). He has taught courses in ‘Fundamental Ecology’ at UC Irvine, ‘Man and the Environment’ at the California State University at Los Angeles, ‘Systems Ecology’ in the College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University, and ‘Image Processing Applied to Classroom Teaching’ at Foothill College, Los Altos Hills. He has served as a consultant in Systems Ecology to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Nairobi, Kenya. He was a Research Associate in the Department of Agricultural Engineering, University of Idaho and a Systems Ecologist with the Agricultural Research Service, U.S.D.A. in Boise where he was the project modeler for the rangeland modeling project called SPUR – the Simulation of Production and Utilization of Rangelands.

He also works modeling the effects of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide on ecosystems and modeling perturbations of Arctic ecosystems. Skiles is the Director for the NASA ARC DEVELOP Program. He is studying terrestrial plant responses to increased ultraviolet radiation in the polar regions of the earth and the effects of low intensity microwave fields on vascular plants. He also uses supercomputers to do ecosystem modeling.

Jeffrey Smith Jeffrey Smith

is Deputy Director for BioVIS (Biological Visualization, Imaging and Simulation) Center, assisting in planning, management and operations for the Center. As a computer scientist with the Gravitational Biology Research Branch, he also applies the advanced computer visualization/simulation technologies of the Center to his specific research interests in Space Life Sciences. Dr. Smith’s continuing projects include 1) the Virtual Glovebox Project, a new technology for astronaut training that integrates advanced computer hardware and software technologies to provide a realistic immersive virtual environment for conducting simulated biology research tasks in space, and 2) Procedural Identification, Task Analysis and Computer Aided Design for the Virtual Glovebox, which use Human Performance Modeling tools to design optimized procedures for biology research in space.

Dr. Smith also collaborates with internal and external investigators to analyze three-dimensional cell structure using serial-sectioning and data visualization technologies developed at the BioVIS Center. Many of his previous research activities with NASA have focused on plant cell biology, including plant gravity sensing, testing of flight hardware for plant tissue culture in space and photosynthesis under hypergravity conditions.

Carol Stoker Carol Stoker

received her Ph.D. in AstroGeophysics from the University of Colorado in 1983. At NASA since 1985, she has done theoretical and experimental research on a variety of problems related to the origin, evolution, and search for life in the solar system. She is actively involved in planning for robotic and human exploration of Mars. Her current research focuses on development and testing of robotic systems for searching for life. This work has focused on field studies of space-analog environments on the Earth.

She has led a variety of field experiments simulating robotic rover missions to Mars. She has also been involved in robotic exploration of underwater environments relevant to searching for life on other planets. She was a participating scientist on the Mars Pathfinder mission where she provided a three-dimensional interactive virtual reality model of the Pathfinder landing site as tool for operating the rover mission. Her current research interests include the development and testing in Mars analog environments of instruments and robotic systems to search for life in the Martian subsurface.

Xander Twombly Xander Twombly

is a research scientist at the NASA Ames BioVisualization and Simulation Center. His Ph.D. in Biophysics and Computational Neuroscience from the Johns Hopkins University was on computational models of spatial pattern recognition in the primate sense of touch. His research focused on understanding the underlying image transformation algorithms executed by the central nervous system, which provide the robust pattern recognition capabilities observed in humans. Since joining the BioVIS Center, he has worked on the application of pattern recognition and adaptive filtering techniques to perform automated segmentation and 3D reconstruction of medical images, and acted as technical lead for the development of a collaborative virtual environment for medical diagnostics (the Virtual Collaborative Clinic) and an immersive workbench for training astronauts on biological experiment procedures in a microgravity environment. His current research is in the application of models of the vertibrate vestibular system as balance control mechanisms for robotic devices, with a primary focus on multi-legged walking robots.

Wenona Vercoutere Wenona Vercoutere

has recently joined NASA Ames Research Center to work at the interface of nanotechnology and space life sciences. She graduated in 1995 from Sonoma State University and earned her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her work uses microscopic and nanoscopic techniques to investigate how mechanical forces affect DNA, at the cellular and single molecule level.

Robert B. Welch Robert B. Welch

received his Ph.D. at the University of Oregon in Experimental Psychology and was a Professor of Psychology at the University of Kansas for many years. He joined NASA Ames in 1986 and is currently a Research Psychologist in the Human Information Processing Research Branch. He has published widely in the area of human perception and adaptation.

His current work focuses on the perceptual and perceptual-motor problems associated with the interactive technologies of virtual environments and teleoperator devices and the ability of users to overcome these problems by means of adaptation. More specifically, he is examining the ability of humans to overcome the adverse effects of restricted fields of view in head-mounted displays and identifying means of accelerating the process of adaptation to altered stylus-cursor relationships.


^ top

Home | Mission | What’s New? | Calendar | People | Program | Application | Background | Resources | Contact Us

Responsible NASA Official: Zann Gill
©2004 NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). All Rights Reserved.