The Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University is pleased to announce the application opportunity for the 2019-2020 Nininger Meteorite Award for undergraduate and graduate students pursuing research in meteoritical sciences!
The Nininger Meteorite Award recognizes outstanding student achievement in the meteoritical sciences as embodied by an original research paper; the recipient receives $2,000 and an engraved plaque commemorating the honor.
Research topics covered under this description include, but are not limited to, physical and chemical properties of meteorites, origin of meteoritic material and cratering. Observational, experimental, statistical or theoretical investigations are allowed. Papers must cover original research conducted by the student and must have been written, submitted, or published between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2020.
The Nininger Meteorite Award application deadline is April 2, 2021. Applicants must be the first, but not sole, author of the paper and must have enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program at an educational institution in the United States at the time the paper was written, submitted, or published. Note that papers do not need to be published in order to qualify for submission.
Among her many achievements, Dunham was recently selected for a 51 Pegasi b Fellowship in Planetary Astronomy, which provides exceptional postdoctoral scientists with the opportunity to conduct theoretical, observational, and experimental research in planetary astronomy. Dunham will be hosted by the University of California, Los Angeles, Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences and will be studying the heritage of meteorites to develop a timeline for planet formation and other early solar system events.
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: I realized that I wanted to study meteorites during a class called "Planetary Materials" during my junior year of college at Case Western Reserve University. In this class, we learned about, touched and studied a huge range of meteorite samples — I couldn't get enough and pursued this field in graduate school. I felt and still feel that meteoritics falls at the perfect intersection of my astronomy, planetary science and geology passions.
Photo credit: Emilie Dunham/ASU[/caption]Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: Other than learning how to survive in 120 degree Arizona dry heat, I am continuing to learn about the importance of science communication and how it can positively affect those you engage with.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I was very excited to attend and be a part of the Center for Meteorite Studies in the School of Earth and Space Exploration because of the opportunity to work with my adviser, Professor Mini Wadhwa, the expansive meteorite collection and incredible community.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: My advice is to find and practice other passions in life that exist outside of school and research. For me, running has always been a necessary outlet and helps me approach a work-life balance.
Photo courtesy Heising-Simons Foundation[/caption]Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: The Center for Meteorite Studies suite and meteorite vault in ISTB4. Being surrounded by meteorites and a great research community inspires me to ask big questions about how the Solar System formed.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I will be working at UCLA as a 51 Pegasi b postdoctoral fellow. I get to continue studying meteorites and discovering the secrets of solar system formation!
Media Relations & Marketing manager, School of Earth and Space Exploration
Get to know Center researchers with this new periodic feature!
Dr. Jemma Davidson is an Assistant Research Scientist in the ASU Center for Meteorite Studies (CMS) and School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE). Her research focuses on the petrology and isotope chemistry of a wide variety of planetary materials, including interplanetary dust particles, meteorites from Mars, the Moon, and the asteroid belt, and samples of lava flows collected on Earth.
Davidson knew she was destined for a scientific career when she studied geology at high school. The enthusiasm and encouragement of a teacher (shout out to Mr. Finn!) convinced her that studying geology was a legitimate career for a kid from a council estate.
During her undergraduate studies at Durham University in the north of England, she realized that she didn’t just want to study rocks – she wanted to study rocks from space. Even though her Earth Science department didn’t have a planetary science component she convinced her Master’s adviser to help her set up a research project working on lunar samples returned from the Moon by the Apollo 15 and 17 missions.
That was the first time I’d ever held anything extraterrestrial. While I worked on those samples they went everywhere with me – I didn’t let them out of my sight. Then each night, after locking them away and leaving the lab, I’d look up at Moon and it would blow my mind that I could see where those samples had been collected by astronauts before I was even born. I was hooked.
After graduating with a first class M.Sci. degree from Durham University in 2006, she switched focus from the Moon to even more exotic material that predates our own Solar System.
During my last year of undergraduate study, while I was working on the Apollo samples, I wrote a research paper about presolar grains in meteorites. I had literally never heard of them before but they instantly won me over.
Presolar grains are tiny, microscopic pieces of dust that form when dying stars either explode (in the case of novae and supernovae) or start to expand and slough off material that condenses as it cools. They are literally pieces of dead stars that we can study in the lab.
It’s pretty amazing to think that some meteorites preserve what are essentially fossil pieces of stars that lived and died before our Solar System even existed.
After obtaining her PhD for her presolar grain studies from The Open University in 2009, Davidson moved to the US to start a string of postdoctoral positions that would take her from the University of Arizona where she worked on the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission, to the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, and the Carnegie Institution of Science in Washington D.C. before she ultimately found a home as a Sun Devil at ASU in 2018.
Throughout her career, Davidson has jumped at the opportunity to work on many different types of extraterrestrial – and even terrestrial – materials.
I joke that my scientific career has Jekyll and Hyde style personalities – one side of me studies the earliest-formed Solar System materials (the really primitive stuff that hasn’t been altered since it formed 4.5 billion years ago) while the other side is interested in planetary magmatism, which occurred after large planetary bodies formed and differentiated, and represents the later stages of planetary body evolution. But there’s a common thread that runs through all my research – what materials were present at the start of our Solar System? What was destroyed? What survived? And how did this material evolve to its current state?
Answering questions like those opens up a host of research opportunities; as a cosmochemist and petrologist, Davidson has a skill set ideally suited to working on a whole variety of sample types. Over the last couple of years, Davidson has been working with SESE Director (and former CMS Director) Dr. Meenakshi (Mini) Wadhwa on meteorites from Mars and terrestrial analogs.
Mini offered me the opportunity to fill what I saw as a gap in my knowledge; a deep understanding of samples formed in large planetary-scale systems. Until then I’d mostly studied material from comets and asteroids, not planets. Studying meteorites from Mars – including the famous NWA 7034 (aka Black Beauty) – allowed me to transfer the skills I’d honed for the analysis of chondrites and IDPs and really sink my teeth into planetary-scale processes.
Davidson’s recent work has concentrated on tracing magmatic volatiles (specifically the isotopic nature and abundance of hydrogen) in minerals in martian meteorites. By performing coordinated hydrogen isotope and concentration analyses, this research aims to determine the source and timing of water in the terrestrial planets, trace how this water evolved, and further our understanding of magmatic processes on different planetary bodies. Davidson will soon extend these analyses to a suite of lava samples from Iceland.
As anyone who visits CMS will know, my office is currently teeming with Icelandic basalts and I’ll take any excuse to show them to people; they’re gorgeous but they also provide a very important way for us to understand processes occurring on Mars. We have field context for the Icelandic basalts – we know where they were collected in relation to one another and that allows us to trace the behavior of water within a suite of samples and between suites that experienced different geologic processes. We don’t know exactly where on Mars the martian meteorites came from but the Icelandic basalts provide great analogs for martian samples and will allow us to put data from those samples into context.
Davidson looks forward to the day when samples will be brought back from Mars. In the meantime, she continues to split her research focus between early Solar System materials and planetary-scale magmatic volatiles studies.
The Center for Meteorite Studies and the School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) are pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 Nininger Student Travel Award. The goal of this award is to support travel to the annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) of up to 4 SESE undergraduate and/or graduate students to present their latest research. Note that LPSC was cancelled this year, due to Covid-19.
The awardees are:
Madeline is a 4th year undergraduate student studying Astrobiology. Her research with Professors Thomas Sharp and Mélanie Barboni focuses on impacted meteorites from the asteroid Vesta. Having characterized the petrography and impact history of her sample (NWA 8677), she now focuses on zircon grains present. Using zircon as an extremely old and reliable clock, she can analyze all of the zircon of sufficient size in her sample to obtain high-spatial resolution U-Pb ages by Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (SIMS). These ages will put timestamps on when impact events were occurring on Vesta and the crystallization age of zircon. Further analyses of element substitution (Ti, Al, Mg, Fe) in zircon by SIMS will aid in determining the initial bulk composition of the magma ocean and apparent crystallization temperature of zircon. The brilliant potential of zircon in meteorites will help to better understand the impact and geologic history of early-formed bodies in our Solar System.
Soumya is a PhD candidate in the School of Earth and Space Exploration working with Professor Meenakshi Wadhwa. Her research focuses on measuring the stable isotope composition of meteorites in the Isotope Cosmochemistry and Geochronology Laboratory at ASU. Specifically, she studies the Fe and Si isotope composition of a variety of bulk achondrites as well as mineral separates from these achondrites. At LPSC, she will present a new method for the purification of Fe and Si from the same aliquots of digested and dissolved samples. A coupled investigation of both Fe and Si isotopes in bulk meteorites and mineral separates could provide important constraints on processes occurring during accretion and differentiation of meteorite parent bodies and help answer whether Fe and Si isotopes fractionate during core formation.
Vishaal is a PhD candidate in Geological Sciences at ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, working with Professor Steve Desch and Dr. Alyssa Rhoden on Ocean World exploration. Using a three-pronged (or ‘Trident’) approach, Vishaal is developing techniques to probe the thermomechanical and compositional properties of dynamic ice shells, viewed as a remote sensing target, a site for in situ exploration, and through the depth of the shell. He combines investigations on Jupiter’s moon Europa, using remote sensing data (photometry), lab studies & modeling (ice spectroscopy and mechanics), and instrumentation development, to identify the limits of our diagnostic capabilities and new pathways for exploration. In this abstract, Vishaal and his co-authors explore the interrelationship between grain size, chemical composition, radiation processing, and thermal cycling of ice samples (and their spectra) in the lab, and test how they alter our current understanding of Europa’s surface – this is necessary to identify the likely locations of recent activity where we may find biosignatures. They find that the collected lab spectra change due to these listed parameters, but also differ from previous modeling efforts, particularly for the 1.65 μm water-ice band which is used to assess the crystallinity of the surface. This has significant implications for our understanding of how Europa’s surface ice evolves with temperature and radiation.
Zack is a PhD candidate in the School of Earth and Space Exploration advised by Professor Meenakshi Wadhwa. At LPSC, he will be presenting his work on the combined Cr, Ti, and O isotopic systematics of meteorites that was conducted in the Isotope Cosmochemistry and Geochronology Laboratory at ASU. These combined isotope systems are used to trace genetic relationships between meteorites, and the goal of this work is to measure the isotopic compositions of ungrouped chondrites for the purpose of evaluating the relationship between CM and CO chondrites. Studies of CM (and CM-like ungrouped) chondrites are particularly important as these meteorites may be analogs for the carbonaceous asteroids targeted by the ongoing OSIRIS-REx and Hayabusa2 sample return missions.
The etched surface of this iron (IVA) meteorite displays a cross-hatched structure in the metal, called Widmanstätten pattern. This pattern (named for Count Alois von Beckh Widmanstätten, director of the Austrian Imperial Porcelain Works, in 1808) indicates extremely slow cooling on the order of 10o Celsius per million years. Most iron meteorites are believed to originate in the cores of large asteroids; when these asteroidal cores were exposed to the cold and vacuum of space as the result of cosmic collisions, the molten metal they comprised cooled over millions of years, resulting in the intergrown metallic lamellae seen here. Read the Meteoritical Bulletin entry for Muonionalusta, here!
Established in 2017 and named for the first exoplanet discovered orbiting a Sun-like star, the 51 Pegasi b Fellowship provides exceptional postdoctoral scientists with the opportunity to conduct theoretical, observational and experimental research in planetary astronomy.
Dr. Dunham is one of 8 fellows selected by the Heising-Simons Foundation for the 2020 51 Pegasi b Fellowship.
Solar wind samples are a good surrogate for the solar nebula because a preponderance of scientific evidence suggests that the outer layer of the Sun preserves the composition of the early solar nebula.
For most rock-forming elements, the process of solar wind ejection from the Sun does, however, cause significant fractionation of some elements and isotopes. So, Genesis research requires collaboration with solar physicists and, in addition to finding a surrogate for the solar nebula, provides information on solar processes.
CMS: How were you first drawn to meteoritics, cosmochemistry, and NASA?
Jurewicz: My undergraduate degree was a BA in geology (Phi Beta Kappa) from Occidental College, but I took classes at Caltech, a nearby school, where I considered going as a grad student in paleontology under H. Lowenstam. I wasn’t accepted at Caltech for grad school because I managed to graduate Occidental without any chemistry. My graduate work was primarily at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI; Troy, NY), first in structural geology (microstructure) with M. Brian Bayly, and I took classes with W. Means at SUNY Albany. I started chemistry by taking graduate-level physical chemistry. Then, after a short stint elsewhere, I returned to RPI and worked with E. Bruce Watson, doing high-temperature, controlled-atmosphere phase-equilibrium and diffusion experiments for my PhD.
It seemed like every kid of my generation wanted to be an astronaut and developed a fascination with NASA. For me, that seed started watching the Apollo 11 landing, but didn’t develop until after my PhD in high-temperature experimental petrology of earthly basalts and post-doctoral research at the US Air Force Research Laboratory focused on fiber-reinforced ceramic composites. At that point, my husband and I had moved to Houston and I had the choice of being a ceramic engineer for a start-up company vs. being a post-doctoral researcher in the experimental petrology labs at the Johnson Space Center (JSC). The engineering position paid 30% more, but the NASA job was located next to the astronaut’s gym and I got to play with synthetic molten basalts. It was a no-brainer for me to go to NASA.
I should note that, unlike most academics, in 1995 I took a break from NASA work, becoming an engineer for a company producing diamond-tungsten carbide cutting tools for the oil industry. My husband, the company's director of research, had also moved there from JSC. This joint career move was for the purpose of allowing me to more easily take care of my father, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s. It was only in 1997 (after a year of living at home trying to keep my father safe) that I returned to NASA. I was hired for the Stardust Aerogel Team at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the recommendation of Gerry Wasserberg, for whom I had done some diffusion work.
CMS: Tell us more about your work on NASA missions.
Jurewicz: There were 3 main missions: Genesis (solar wind sample return), Stardust (comet sample return) and SCIM (Mars dust sample return).
Genesis – Still active and “project scientist”. Unlike most JPL project scientists, I did not work with the administration. Instead, I characterized, purchased and/or fabricated collector materials and interfaced between the Principal Investigator and JPL engineering on some of the projects, such as the collector foil experiment.
Stardust – My role on the Aerogel Team was aerogel inspector, which included physically testing the aerogel’s ability to catch particulates using the hypervelocity gun lab at NASA Ames.
SCIM — The mission was proposed several times, but was closest to flying in 2003 when it lost on the second round to the Phoenix Lander, but I would start again in a NY minute. I sequentially filled multiple positions from the project's inception through its many iterations, including JPL’s SCIM Project Scientist, Co-Investigator (2003), and lead on the dust collector (DUCE). The most fun was arcjet testing aerogel at Ames to study the thermal stability of aerogel during the aeropass, and participating in the design, testing, and fabrication of the aerogel collector modules to ensure that the martian dust SCIM collected would be suitable for scientific study.
CMS: You’re very active in both your research and public outreach; tell us why you love what you do.
Jurewicz: I am simply fascinated by the workings of the natural world. It doesn’t matter if it is the way a defect moves through a crystal or how the Sun makes (and ejects) solar wind. I am addicted to looking at data and seeing trends that explain processes, especially how materials are made and subsequently change.
I love telling people about meteorites and what they mean as bits of returned sample. I love pallasites and metallic meteorites because I can tell the unsuspecting that they are snapshots into the interior of a solar system body that might have been trying to form a planet. Then I tell them that the Sun is 99% of the solar system, that we can use it as a “fossil” of the solar nebula, and then hand them a piece of the Allende meteorite and tell them that they are, in essence, holding a piece of the Sun. How can you have more fun than that?
March 19 is Sun Devil Giving Day – 24 hours to show the world what you can accomplish when you join forces to support Arizona State University!
This day of giving is a way for you to support the Center for Meteorite Studies (CMS). Every dollar counts, and your gift helps support our pursuit of new knowledge about the origin of our Solar System through the study of meteorites and other planetary materials in a variety of ways, including research initiatives, conservation and growth of the Center's meteorite collection, and educational activities.
Follow the Center for Meteorite Studies and ASU Foundation on Facebook and Twitter for the latest Sun Devil Giving Day announcements and contest information.
Tell your friends about Sun Devil Giving Day so they can be a part of the celebration.
Individually, each of us is part of ASU’s rich tradition of giving. Collectively, we are changing the world and expanding our universe.
Join us on March 19 as we show the world what the Sun Devil Nation can do when we give together!
All funds will be deposited with the ASU Foundation for A New American University, a non-profit organization that exists to support Arizona State University (ASU). Gifts in support of ASU are subject to foundation policies and fees. Your gift may be considered a charitable contribution. Please consult your tax advisor regarding the deductibility of charitable contributions.
A research unit of the School of Earth and Space Exploration.