Planetary Geochemistry

I research the chemistry of planetary surfaces and interiors, focusing on extreme environments on Earth, Mars, and icy worlds in our solar system.

Liquid water is a fundamental agent of geomorphic and geochemical change on planetary surfaces. Water is also a key ingredient for life, so a major goal of NASA's missions is to find and characterize water environments. My research addresses the broad role of water in planetary science by integrating laboratory experimentation, field work, and computer simulations:

  • Laboratory experimentation: My laboratory work focuses on the formation and properties of liquid water in planetary systems, which often occurs at previously unexplored temperatures, pressures, and compositions.
  • Field work: Field studies inform our understanding of potential surface processes and are a natural laboratory for validating theoretical predictions. I am particularly interested in sites such as the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica, which are the most Mars-like environments on Earth.
  • Computer simulations: Modern computers make it possible to virtually simulate chemical and physical processes that might be occurring in hard-to-get-to locations like Mars. I use computer simulations to figure out how and under what conditions liquid water is possible in extreme environments, what the properties of that water might be, and if it is possible for life to live in it.