We are pleased to announce that Center Ph.D. Candidate Daniel Dunlap has been awarded the Dwornik Award!
The award was endowed in 1991 by Dr. Stephen E. Dwornik, who wished to encourage U.S. students to become involved with NASA and planetary science. The Dwornik Award recognizes outstanding student presentations (in both oral and poster categories) at the annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC). The awards are managed and judged by the Planetary Geology Division of the Geological Society of America.
We are pleased to announce that Center Ph.D. Candidate Soumya Ray has been awarded the highly competitive and prestigious NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (NESSF)!
Soumya's proposal, "A combined investigation of iron and silicon isotopes in meteorites: Implications for planetary accretion and differentiation", was one of only 24 selected from over 220 applications for this fellowship in the Planetary Science Research Program.
The NESSF program awards students from accredited U.S. universities pursuing Master of Science or doctoral degrees in Earth and space sciences, or related disciplines. The purpose of the NESSF is to ensure continued training of a highly qualified workforce in disciplines needed to achieve NASA's scientific goals.
Given her childhood fascination with the movie Armageddon, about a gigantic asteroid on a collision course with Earth, it’s not surprising that School of Earth and Space Exploration recent grad, Alexandra Perez, focused her studies here at ASU on meteorites.
Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, Perez was thrilled to learn in college that she could actually study meteorites. “When I held my first meteorite while working on my senior thesis, I instantly knew this is what I wanted to study.”
Since beginning her master’s degree at ASU in geological sciences, Perez has conducted over 130 experiments to determine how chondrules (a mineral grain present in some stony meteorites) form. Research on these primitive specimens may help us better understand the evolution of the early solar system.
Given her interest in meteorites, It’s not surprising that Perez’ favorite spot on campus was the second floor of the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building, where the Center for Meteorite Studies is located. ASU has the largest collection of meteorites of any university (over 40,000 specimens) and a variety of meteorites are on display here, both behind glass, as well as some that you can touch.
When asked the best piece of advice she’d give to those starting college, Perez recommends students push themselves beyond their limits and comfort zones. “This is the only way you can find what you are capable of and you will surprise yourself along the way,” she says.
And she practices what she preaches. Alexandra has been described by her advisors and instructors as both positive and persistent. She has also overcome tremendous challenges, including surviving a brain tumor prior to starting her degree.
Her plans after graduation include a trip to New Zealand and Australia, as well as spending time with family. After a break, she plans on pursuing a Ph.D. and continuing to raise awareness of brain tumors and supporting the search for a cure.
Center students and scientists recently took touchable meteorites to the closing weekend of the Phoenix Zoo's Dinosaurs in the Desert exhibit, and DÍa del Niño event.
How do you take on a T-Rex in the wild? With a well aimed Canyon Diablo iron meteorite, of course!
Ph.D. candidate Zack Torrano demonstrates the proper stance to take, with outward turned throwing hand, and off-hand extended for balance. This minimizes the chances of slipping and falling while attempting to attack a dinosaur, which can be a fatal mistake.
Ph.D. student Gabriel Franco shares his enthusiasm for space rocks with aspiring young scientists.
Ph.D. candidates Emilie Dunham and Zack Torrano describe the meteorite that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, and invite visitors to hold a rock from space.
Despite his best attempts, Zack was unable to convince this feathered dinosaur to trade one of her eggs for a meteorite.
The mass spectrometer ionizes the sample by stripping off electrons and directing the ions, using electrostatic lenses in a high vacuum, to an electromagnet (or other type of mass analyzer). It then separates the ions by atomic weight and directs them to one or a series of detectors. Resulting signals are fed into a computer that calculates isotope ratios and analytical uncertainties.
The college recognizes outstanding graduate students who have been nationally acknowledged through funded fellowships, scholarships, and grants. Eligible students receive funds to advance their research and are recognized at an annual ceremony in the spring.
Daniel is a 5th year PhD candidate studying under Professor Meenakshi Wadhwa in the Isotope Cosmochemistry and Geochronology Lab at ASU. He uses both short-lived (Al-Mg and Mn-Cr) and long-lived (Pb-Pb) isotope systems to determine high precision ages of achondrites; achondrites are meteorites that have experienced varying degrees of heating which took place in the earliest epoch of Solar System history. His work specifically focuses on the ungrouped and underrepresented achondrites. By studying these achondrites, he hopes to expand our understanding of the timeline of igneous activity in the early Solar System. Read Daniel's LPSC abstract here.
Sierra is a Ph.D. student in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, working with Professor Alyssa Rhoden. Her research currently focuses on the mid-sized moons of the Saturnian system, with a focus on Tethys, Rhea, and Dione. The investigations that she is conducting on these moons involve the tectonic structures, craters, and other surface features of the moons. She utilizes ArcGIS for the mapping of these surface features on mosaics that she created from the raw Cassini image data. An overarching goal of her research is to analyze the bombardment history of Saturn’s moons to aid in the determination of the ages of the mid-sized Saturnian satellites. Read Sierra's LPSC abstract here.
Alexandra recently completed her M.S. studies with Professor Steve Desch in the ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration. Her research involves investigating the validity of the planetary embryo bow shock model by conducting dynamic crystallization experiments. Her results show that the most dominant chondrule texture, porphyritic, requires cooling rates < 1000 K/hr to form. The planetary embryo bow shock model therefore is a viable chondrule mechanism for the formation of most chondrules, although lower cooling rates would be preferred. Cooling rates in the bow shock model are inversely proportional to planet size, suggesting that the bow shock around a planetary embryo larger than Mars may better produce porphyritic textures. These results imply that large planetary embryos were present and on eccentric orbits during the first few million years of the Solar System’s history. Read Alexandra's LPSC abstract here.
Zack is a Ph.D. candidate in the Center for Meteorite Studies, studying under Professor Meenakshi Wadhwa. He studies calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions (CAIs), which were the first solids formed in the early Solar System and thus preserve a record of the earliest processes and conditions in the solar nebula. At LPSC, he presented high-precision Cr, Ti, and Mg isotope measurements of a suite of CAIs that were analyzed on the Neptune MC-ICP-MS in ASU’s Isotope Cosmochemistry and Geochronology Laboratory. These samples showed resolvable mass-independent anomalies in both Ti and Cr isotopes, suggesting significant isotopic heterogeneity in the broader CAI-forming region in the protoplanetary disk. The "bulk" Al-Mg isochron yields a canonical 26Al/27Al value, consistent with homogeneous distribution of 26Al in the solar nebula. Read Zack's LPSC abstract here.
The Center's presentations covered a range of topics in meteoritics and cosmochemistry, including meteorites from asteroid Vesta, carbonaceous chondrites, meteorite petrology, the solar wind, and processes in the early Solar System.
The clean lab curlers of Team Isotopes were in Las Vegas this weekend, for the World Men's Curling Championship!
Thanks to Curling Las Vegas, Team Isotopes got to meet men's Olympic curling gold medalists John Shuster, Matt Hamilton, and Joe Polo, who took on the budding sport of meteorite curling – video below!
The Center Ph.D. candidates used specimens designated as touchable meteorites, including a piece of the Canyon Diabloiron meteorite (seen below, mounted on a piece of protective plastic while used on ice), and participated in a curling + meteorites STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) event while in Las Vegas.
Team Isotopes also recorded a Meteorites + Curling video with Team Shuster (watch below!), and hosted the touchable meteorites at the Team USA pre-competition pep rally.
Congratulations to Center for Meteorite Studies Ph. D. student Soumya Ray, who has been awarded a Summer Exploration Graduate (SEG) Fellowship!
The SEG Fellowship Program encourages and supports summer exploration activities by graduate students in all of the research areas within the School of Earth and Space Exploration. The SEG Fellowship Program seeks creative and innovative ideas from graduate students to augment, improve or complement their on-going research efforts via a new exploration-based activity.
Soumya's research in the Center involves measuring the Fe isotope fractionation in achondrite meteorites, as well as analyzing their Si isotope composition, in the ultra clean Isotope Cosmochemistry and Geochronology Laboratory. Her Fe isotope work on aubrites, in particular, has provided new insight into the formation of metal nodules in these unique meteorites.
She recently presented her work at the 49th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, held in Houston, Texas: