Planetary Geochemist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Dr. Jennifer Stern is a Planetary Geochemist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, specializing in the study of the atmosphere and surface of Mars, and instrument development for geochemical measurements on a variety of planetary surfaces. She designed, manages, and operates the stable isotope facility in the Planetary Environments Laboratory at Goddard in addition to developing techniques for in situ field measurements of trace gases of biological interest. Dr. Stern is a member of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover team and the Sample Analysis at Mars team focusing on using mass spectrometry for isotopic measurements and detection of nitrogen compounds.
Dr. Stern has a BA in Geology-Biology from Brown University and a PhD in Geochemistry from Florida State University, where she developed analytical techniques for isotope and trace metal analysis of environmental waters with the goal of understanding the role of anthropogenic processes in wetlands and other environments. She decided to apply her interest in geochemistry to astrobiology as a postdoctoral fellow at NASA Ames Research Center and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, where she studied how organic molecules can be formed by non-biological processes occurring in meteorites and at hydrothermal vents. Today, in parallel with her participation on the Curiosity team conducting experiments on Mars, she participates in field expeditions to places where geochemical processes similar to those that may have occurred Mars are recorded in Earth’s rock record, such as Greenland, Svalbard, and southern Mexico.
In addition to her work at NASA GSFC, Dr. Stern is detailed to NASA Headquarters as a Program Officer for R&A programs in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. She is active in outreach and has given widely attended public lectures including talks at Florida State University, University of South Carolina, and University of Illinois, Chicago. She has also been a featured speaker to the Chemical Society of Washington, a plenary speaker at the 2015 and 2016 Mars Society Conventions, and the keynote speaker for the Richmond Engineering Society’s Engineering Week. She has given interviews to the L.A. Times, Science Magazine, and Canadian Public Radio’s Quirks & Quarks about her work on Mars nitrogen.