EPEC Profiles – Arianna Ricchiuti

EPEC Profiles – Arianna Ricchiuti

In this series from the EPEC Communication Working Group, we meet members of the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) community and find out more about their experiences and aspirations.

Arianna Ricchiuti is a Biologist with a Master in Science Communication and Journalism. She is currently Editor of EJR-Quartz for the European Space Agency (ESA), working at ESA Communication Office in Noordwijk (Netherlands), where she is responsible for internal communications and events.

Prior to this role, Arianna had been working as Planetarium Presenter and Outreach Officer at the Planetarium of Bari (Italy), creating and hosting shows and astronomical observations for schools and general public. Arianna has also been speaker at many science congresses and festivals all over Europe.

Her commitment towards science communication brought her different awards: from the victory in the 2016 national final of FameLab, worldwide competition about science communication, to the 2020 Space Factor Award from EANA, the European Astrobiology Network Association.

Arianna Ricchiuti with ESA astronauts Samantha Cristoforetti and Luca Parmitano during the ESTEC Open Day 2020.
Image Credit: Arianna Ricchiuti

I’ve always dreamt of working at ESA. During the first years of university, I had the chance to meet astronauts like Umberto Guidoni and Paolo Nespoli, who inspired me to pursue a career in the space field, particularly towards ESA. At the same time I started to work at the Planetarium of Bari, where I discovered the world of scicomm and outreach… and I fell in love with it! That’s why I went on with a Master in Science Communication and in 2019 I started a 6-months internship at ESA ESTEC, the main site of the agency, based in NL. It was such an exciting time, where I had the chance to live and work with people from all over the world and take part in unique activities (I even created an exhibition!). In 2020 I got a position as Editor with EJR-Quartz, an amazing company that offers communication, marketing and social media services to several institutions, ESA included… Literally what I’ve been dreaming of! I must say starting a new job abroad during a pandemic has been really tough, but I’m truly grateful to my company for the chance, support and lovely atmosphere.

Never give up guys, opportunities can come and change your life in unexpected ways.

I joined EPEC one year ago and it was the best decision of my life! I’ve found a community of passionate and dynamic young professionals, who are really trasforming the world of science communication and outreach through brilliant initiatives and networking opportunities. Looking forward to meeting you all!

Arianna Ricchiuti

More information about Arianna Ricchiuti:

Contact: arianna94ricchiuti@gmail.com

Arianna Ricchiuti. Credit: Marisa Di Pinto.

If you are an Early Career member of the Europlanet Society and would like to be featured in an EPEC Profile, find out more about how to submit your profile.

See all the EPEC Profiles.

EPEC Profiles – Safoura Tanbakouei

EPEC Profiles – Safoura Tanbakouei

In this series from the EPEC Communication Working Group, we meet members of the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) community and find out more about their experiences and aspirations.

Safoura Tanbakouei is a planetary science researcher working as a Postdoc in Division of Earth and Planetary Science and the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Hong Kong.

Studying the solar system and its bodies has always been a dream to me, since I was in school, and I am so pleased for being in this amazing field and try to have a crucial role in planetary explorations.
In the last 6 years, I am have been working in the field of planetary science investigating various planetary exploration methods such as laboratory spectroscopy from ultraviolet to Near-infrared spectroscopy of meteorites and asteroids.

I obtained my doctoral degree in 2020 from Institute of Space Sciences in University of Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain on the topic of Mineralogy and spectral properties of asteroids and meteorites. In my thesis I have done Raman spectroscopy and nanoindentation techniques on the samples of asteroid Itokawa –returned samples by Hayabusa missin of JAXA- to find out the shock phases of the regolith and also physical properties of asteroid Itokawa. I have achieved many expertise in the reflectivity of the space rocks and their comparison to the reflectance properties of minor bodies in the solar system.

In my current position, I am doing research in the natural resources on Mars, mineralogy and spectroscopy of Martian surface. Doing mineral mapping of the hydrated phases in the surface of Mars and try to locate water regions.

I believe being part of the EPEC is be a great experience of networking, interacting with other planetray scientists among the world, enhancing creativity and sharing science plus fun!

Safoura Tanbakouei

More information about Safoura Tanbakouei:

Contact: stanba@hku.hk

Safoura Tanbakouei. Credit: Safoura Tanbakouei’s archive.

If you are an Early Career member of the Europlanet Society and would like to be featured in an EPEC Profile, find out more about how to submit your profile.

See all the EPEC Profiles.

EPEC Profiles – Julie Nováková

EPEC Profiles – Julie Nováková

In this series from the EPEC Communication Working Group, we meet members of the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) community and find out more about their experiences and aspirations.

Julie Nováková is an evolutionary biologist with an interest in astrobiology and planetary science, educator and award-winning Czech author and editor of science fiction. She co-teaches an astrobiology class at her alma mater, the Faculty of Science, Charles University, and co-organises an astrobiology seminar there.

Julie has been doing science outreach for more than a decade now, and writing science fiction for even longer. She has merged these activities as the leader of the ‘Science Fiction as A Tool of Astrobiology Outreach & Education’ project team at the European Astrobiology Institute (EAI) and co-leader of EAI’s outreach working group.

As her first major project at the EAI, she created an outreach anthology of acclaimed authors’ science fiction stories with astrobiological topics, each accompanied by a themed nonfiction piece written by herself. The book, titled ‘Strangest of All’, is freely available in several e-book formats at her own website and EAI’s site, and it also includes tips for use in classroom. More books, exhibitions, talks and interviews are being prepared by her and her team.

Image credit: Julie Nováková’s archive

She received the Professor Jaroslav Heyrovský Award (Charles University’s Rector’s Award for students of natural sciences) in 2017, and has amassed multiple awards as a writer, editor and translator. Science and storytelling are her two greatest passions, and she intends to further pursue both and integrate them in innovative outreach projects in the vein of STEAM.

The goal? First evoke the sense of wonder and curiosity… and then take it from there. Always make people ask more questions rather than just memorise answers. Always show the amazing, often tumultuous and sometimes erroneous journey to a scientific conclusion. Firstly, it’s a story to tell. Secondly, understanding the process of science promotes critical thinking and more in-depth understanding rather than shallow memory. By engaging people’s emotions, stories can, hand in hand with other approaches, help achieve this.

Julie is also a member of Europlanet Society and the XPRIZE Sci-fi Advisory Council. Her newest book is a story collection titled The Ship Whisperer (Arbiter Press, 2020).

Why EPEC? Because communities are vital in science. The popular image of the ‘lone wolf scientist’ is so far from actual reality! Scientific work is achieved in teams and further circles, and EPEC enables early-career researchers to find inspiration, mentors, friends, useful information and better footing to pursue their careers.

JULIE NOVÁKOVÁ

More information about Julie Nováková:

Contact: julie.novakova@natur.cuni.cz

Julie Nováková. Credit: Julie Nováková’s archive.

If you are an Early Career member of the Europlanet Society and would like to be featured in an EPEC Profile, find out more about how to submit your profile.

See all the EPEC Profiles.

EPEC Profiles – Gavin Tolometti

EPEC Profiles – Gavin Tolometti

In this series from the EPEC Communication Working Group, we meet members of the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) community and find out more about their experiences and aspirations.

Gavin Tolometti is a PhD student at the University of Western Ontario and uses radar data to study the surface roughness of lava flows on Earth, the Moon and Mars.

As a kid, I always found volcanoes, lava flows and magma in general incredibly interesting! However, once I realised other planetary bodies in our solar system, including our own natural satellite, have lava flows I was convinced that planetary science was the field for me.

It took a while to get on to a planetary science path. I started with a bachelors degree in geology, and it was not until the final year of my undergraduate degree in 2016 that I learned I could study lava flows for a PhD!

My study focuses on using radar remote sensing data to study the surface roughness of lava flows on Earth, the Moon and Mars. The surface roughness of a lava flow provides us a window into learning about the emplacement styles of lava flows on other planetary bodies, which can inform us about the eruption dynamics and thermal properties of planetary interiors. I use radar data collected by airbourne platforms and Earth orbiting satellites, including the ESA Sentinel-1 satellite and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar platform.

My PhD has taken me to some very exciting locations, including Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho, USA and the 2014-15 Holuhraun lava flow-field in central Iceland. Iceland is my most memorable experience conducting field work because I was given the role as logistics lead. I had to ensure the safety of my team and lead a field expedition funded by the Canadian Space Agency. It was also the first time I had visited Iceland and driven a vehicle through a river (nervously!) to reach our field site.

Gavin Tolometti
Gavin Tolometti in the field. Credit: G. Tolometti.

I have also been involved in two high fidelity analogue sample return missions. In 2016, I was part of the CanMars 2016 Sample Return Mission field team where we were tasked to simulate a rover on Mars searching for organic sediments. This included using geochemical and hyperspectral handheld field instruments to analyse sedimentary rocks in Utah, similar to the instruments attached to the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity mission. In 2019, I was part of the CanMoon Sample Return Mission planning team where we simulated a sample return mission on the Moon in preparation for the NASA Artemis Lunar Gateway initiative.

As well as my research, I am also involved in science communication on social media and I am part of a graduate student podcast committee group known as “GradCast” at the University of Western Ontario. I got into listening to podcasts at the start of my PhD, but I never thought I would get to participate in a podcast and learn about the amazing research conducted by other students in different departments.

My interests in podcasting and science communication has me on a path to strengthen the bridge between STEAM and the public. Learning how to best communicate ground breaking scientific discoveries, discuss important news, and share our passion for fields in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) with the public will benefit not only ourselves, but the entire world.

Getting involved with EPEC has been extremely rewarding as I have gotten to meet and work with many incredible researchers. I will continue to become more involved with EPEC and contribute to the society using my science communication and research skills.

Gavin Tolometti

More information about Gavin Tolometti:

GradCast Radio

Contact: gtolomet@uwo.ca

Gavin Tolometti. Credit: G. Tolometti.

If you are an Early Career member of the Europlanet Society and would like to be featured in an EPEC Profile, find out more about how to submit your profile.

See all the EPEC Profiles.

EPEC Profiles – Juan Luis Rizos

EPEC Profiles – Juan Luis Rizos

In this series from the EPEC Communication Working Group, we meet members of the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) community and find out more about their experiences and aspirations.

Juan Luis Rizos is a postdoc researcher at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias working on machine learning tools to exploit spectral data from Solar System missions.

Dr Juan Luis Rizos was born in El Carpio, a small village that sits on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, near Cordoba, in the south of Spain. He started working in the music world as a youth, but always showed a strong interest in science. For this reason, he combined his work with studies in physics by distance learning. After graduating, he decided to continue with science, first earning a Master’s degree in Physics and Mathematics, and finally a PhD in Astrophysics. Although he never planned to become an astrophysicist, life offered him this opportunity and he did not hesitate in taking it.

During his PhD, Dr Rizos was an active member of the Image Processing Working Group of the OSIRIS-REx mission. This sample return NASA mission was launched to study the primitive asteroid (101955) Bennu, and he performed a spectrophotometric characterisation of the surface. using MapCam data, a medium-field imager. Given the large astronomical datasets taken by MapCam for several years, it was necessary to develop a methodology to manage these data for a spectral characterization of the Bennu surface. His methodology consisted of an unsupervised machine learning classification through the K-Means algorithm. It allowed the identification of spectral clusters with similarities for a global and local characterisation, with particular attention being paid to the places where the sample would be collected.

Juan Luis Rizos

Currently, Dr Rizos is a postdoc researcher at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias. He is interested in building machine learning tools to exploit spectral data from Solar System missions.

“Spectral data are a valuable source of information for understanding planetary surfaces, ranging from mineralogical composition to morphology, age, particle size, or organic molecules content. Until now, all unmanned missions to other bodies in the Solar System incorporate a suite of spectral instruments for high precision measurements. However, these instruments acquire large amounts of data that are almost impossible to analyse only by humans,” said Dr Rizos.

EPEC is an amazing working group for young scientists. It brings together people from different places but with similar interests in Planetary Science. It puts a strong emphasis on cooperation and networking between different areas. I think early careers can make a big contribution to the community: they have an essential freshness and vitality.

Juan Luis Rizos

More information about Juan Luis Rizos:

Contact: juanluisrizos@gmail.com

Juan Luis Rizos
Juan Luis Rizos. Credit: Juan Luis Rizos

If you are an Early Career member of the Europlanet Society and would like to be featured in an EPEC Profile, find out more about how to submit your profile.

See all the EPEC Profiles.

EPEC Profiles – Foivos Karakostas

EPEC Profiles – Foivos Karakostas

In this series from the EPEC Communication Working Group, we meet members of the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) community and find out more about their experiences and aspirations.

Foivos Karakostas is a PostDoctoral Associate at the University of Maryland. His field is planetary seismology and he works for the NASA InSight mission.

I am a geophysicist, more precisely a planetary seismologist, and one of the luckiest inhabitants of Earth, as in 2012 I started my involvement in Planetary Seismology, when Philippe Lognonné offered me an internship related to the InSight mission. Months later, after a decades-long wait, a new seismometer was selected to be deployed on the ground of another planet. The renaissance of Planetary Seismology with InSight, after the Apollo and Viking era, is the best thing that could happen to the new generation of seismologists interested in other worlds.

Like many other kids, I grew up being fascinated about planets and I wanted to study them. My interest was extended to the large scales of the universe or the human exploration of the outer space, but what was always more fascinating for me were these other worlds, different than ours, with exotic landscapes and possibly different life! Unlike many childhood dreams, this one came true, and no matter the challenges that any early career scientist encounters these days, doing this job is a motivation to tackle them all.

Since 2012, I have been working exclusively on topics related to the seismic investigation of other planets and planetary bodies. If I could make a metaphor, my research interests are following the way we investigate the planets, starting from their exterior, the visible part, and going deeper, where the secrets about the planetary formation and evolution are hidden but ready to be revealed. In my PhD studies I developed methodologies for using meteor associated events, airbursts or impacts, as seismic sources, generating surface waves on extraterrestrial environments. Therefore, it was a work in the atmosphere and shallow subsurface. Now, I extend my investigation to the structure of the Martian lithosphere, more precisely through the study of the attenuation of seismic waves, recorded by InSight.

Working for a space mission is tremendously beneficial for a young scientist, as it is a highly collaborative environment, with opportunities to be involved in many different projects and the chance to interact with some of the experts of the field. It is something that I would like to see happening across the broader scientific community. This is why I am keen to contribute to the activities of the Europlanet Society.

I often like to quote Carl Sagan: “Of all the fields of mathematics, technology, and science, the one with the greatest international cooperation […] is the field called “Earth and space sciences.” Studying this world and others, by its very nature, tends to be non-local, non-nationalist, non-chauvinist.” My understanding is that the incarnation of this message are the organizations of international communication and cooperation and we need to support them, through active participation. I consider that the scientific culture and communication is the ground where we perform our work, prepared by others, patiently and tirelessly. We should preserve this tradition for the good of science, the best thing that happened to humanity and we decided to dedicate our lives to it.

I recently joined the Communications Working Group of the EuroPlanet Early Career (EPEC) network. My goal is to use the experience from extracurricular activities for the needs of the network. Until today I have written dozens of popularized articles on new advances on planetary exploration and I am podcasting, with the aim of conveying the core concepts of recently published scientific papers in plain language. This outreach activity is highly beneficial, as it allows us to better understand the contribution of our work to the society, while developing skills of inter-scientific communication.

Foivos Karakostas

More information about Foivos Karakostas:

Contact: foivos@foivos.eu

Foivos Karakostas. Credit: Foivos Karakostas
Foivos Karakostas. Credit: Foivos Karakostas

If you are an Early Career member of the Europlanet Society and would like to be featured in an EPEC Profile, find out more about how to submit your profile.

See all the EPEC Profiles.

EPEC Profiles – Rutu Parekh

EPEC Profiles – Rutu Parekh

In this series from the EPEC Communication Working Group, we meet members of the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) community and find out more about their experiences and aspirations.

Rutu Parekh is pursuing a PhD at the Freie Universität Berlin and German Space Center on understanding ‘The influence of volatiles on the asteroid surface: Vesta and Ceres’.

My journey as a planetary researcher has been quite a roller coaster ride so far. However, each stepping stone has helped me to grow in my professional career. Currently, I am pursuing my phd at Freie Universität Berlin and German Space Center (DLR) on understanding ‘ The influence of volatile on the asteroid surface: Vesta and Ceres’.

My study region is focused on to analyse the icy planetary bodies. Various morphological features are associated with volatile outgassing, which has shaped the surface of asteroids. These features help us to understand the evolution of Vesta and Ceres. For this study I use data from the Dawn mission. Further, I also worked on the fractal analysis of boulders identified on the rubble-pile Ryugu asteroid. For this, I used the data from the Hayabusa2 mission which was a collaboration between JAXA and DLR.

Other than being full time researcher, I am also volunteering as tbe Secretary of the Europlanet Diversity Committee and Chair of the EPEC Diversity Working Group. Last, year we launched a series entitled ‘Motivational Journeys‘ under the EPEC Diversity Working Group. This series is a collection of interviews where we discuss the professional journey of experienced scientists in the field of planetary science and provide motivation to early career researchers from diverse environments and cultures.

Additionally, due to my passion towards art and science, I also sketch science in my free time. Being a full time researcher and a constant supporter of creativity, I strongly believe that communicating science is equally important as research and when done in an effective way, it could inspire next generation to take STEM as full time career.

EPEC has provided me with a supportive platform to network and communicate with fellow early careers. It has also served as tremendous source of support and motivation at various stages of my career so far.

Rutu Parekh

More information about Rutu Parekh:

Contact: rutu.parekh@dlr.de

Rutu Parekh. Image credit: Indhu Varatharajan

If you are an Early Career member of the Europlanet Society and would like to be featured in an EPEC Profile, find out more about how to submit your profile.

See all the EPEC Profiles.

EPEC Profiles – Indhu Varatharajan

EPEC Profiles – Indhu Varatharajan

In this series from the EPEC Communication Working Group, we meet members of the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) community and find out more about their experiences and aspirations.

Indhu Varatharajan is a final-year PhD student at Planetary Spectroscopy Laboratory (PSL) group at Department of Planetary Laboratories, Institute of Planetary Research, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Berlin.

Being a girl child from a village in southern India with a dream to pursue planetary career since 13 year old and with no adequate financial background, its been one hell of a ride until here. I did not do it alone and I had help throughout my journey — and everyday I try my best to be someone’s help in their journey of a planetary career.

I strongly believe that international collaboration in very important when it comes to planetary science. This is my motivation to become the council member and Chair of Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) Network. I am passionate about volunteering for leader/professional posts as its my best chance to promote planetary and astronomy science to a wider community and see the community I envision it to be.

I am currently a final-year PhD student at the Planetary Spectroscopy Laboratory (PSL) group at the Department of Planetary Laboratories, Institute of Planetary Research, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Berlin and will be graduating by end of 2020. My PhD is focused on ‘Evaluating new spectral analysis techniques to study the hot surface of Mercury with MERTIS on ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission’ and my advisor is Dr Jörn Helbert, Co-PI of MERTIS. I am officially Co-Investigator of MERTIS since 2018.

In the last 8 years, I am have been working in the field of planetary science investigating various planetary exploration methods such as laboratory spectroscopy from ultraviolet to far-infrared spectroscopy of planetary analogues, laboratory emissivity studies of hot planetary analogues under simulated planetary surface conditions, nanoscale spectroscopy of synthetic planetary analogue materials with synchrotron facilities, telescope observations, machine learning approaches to data analysis of orbital hyperspectral datasets, and planetary field analogue studies targeting in-situ planetary exploration. Over these years, I have had the opportunities to study and explore various aspects of planetary targets include the Moon, Mars, Mercury, near earth asteroids, main belt asteroids, Earth and meteorites.

I am personally motivated towards developing cross disciplinary AI-ML techniques for planetary surface exploration through an integrated spectroscopy approach. I am passionate about designing and building planetary science solutions that transform hierarchical datasets at scale and generate valuable insights to planetary surface resources and drive crucial exploration decisions.

I personally believe that taking responsibilities at a young age allows us to learn the professional elements in a more stress-free environment and EPEC allows me exactly that!!

At EPEC we are a team who are not only passionate about the research we do but also equally passionate in engraining varieties of soft skills including leadership and management qualities that benefit our early career fellows in becoming young professionals. It’s a rewarding and unique experience to work with early-career researchers across Europe and the international community across various working groups under common goals.

Indhu Varatharajan

More information about Indhu Varatharajan:

Contact: indhu.varatharajan@dlr.de

The compilation of all publications and abstracts are linked at this NASA ADS link: http://tiny.cc/indhu_varatharajan

Credit: Indhu Varatharajan

Academics and others: BE in Geoinformatics (Chennai, India), MSc in Planetary Science (London, UK), (ongoing) PhD in Planetary Spectroscopy and MERTIS/BEPICOLOMBO Data Science (Berlin, Germany), Co-Investigator of MERTIS payload onboard ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission (2018-present), Chair of Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) Committee (2017-present), RAS Councillor (2019-2020), Founder and President of Astronomy and Planetary Science Club of CEG (2009-2012).

Indhu Varatharajan’s special interests: AI-driven integrated planetary spectroscopy and planetary surface science and exploration, Moon-Mercury science, space weathering, volatiles, volcanism, impact cratering, STEM outreach.

If you are an Early Career member of the Europlanet Society and would like to be featured in an EPEC Profile, find out more about how to submit your profile.

See all the EPEC Profiles.

EPEC Profiles – Solmaz Adeli

EPEC Profiles – Solmaz Adeli

In this series from the EPEC Communication Working Group, we meet members of the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) community and find out more about their experiences and aspirations.

Solmaz Adeli is a planetary geologist, working as a Postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Planetary Research of the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

Studying the planets has always been a dream to me, since I was little, and I couldn’t be happier for being in this research topic in this particular period of time, where there are missions to various planets, asteroids, icy moons, even far Kuiper belt objects!

Researching the past climate and surface conditions of the Red Planet is my expertise. I am actively involved in the HRSC camera science team on board ESA’s Mars Express mission, and the PanCam camera on board the future ESA and Roscosmos rover, Rosalind Franklin, which is a part of the ExoMars mission.

I obtained my doctoral degree in 2016 from the Freie Universität Berlin and German Space Center (DLR) on the topic of ‘History of liquid water on Mars’. My thesis was about reconstructing the geological history of a region on the southern hemisphere of Mars, where the presence of one of the largest paleolakes on Mars has been hypothesized (Eridania lake). During my first postdoc, I studied the recent glaciation phases in the midlatitude regions of Mars.

Currently I am supporting the Rosalind Franklin rover science team in their landing site high resolution mapping effort, by leading a part of the mapping exercise. In addition, I am also involved in preparing samples to be analyzed by the rover’s scientific payload. This allowed me to visit the exobiology research team at CBM/CNRS laboratories in Orleans, France last year, for a couple of months. For this visit, I won a travel grant from the Geo.X network in Berlin and Brandenburg.

In addition to the research activities, I also teach planetary science-related topics at the Freie Universität Berlin and Universität Potsdam, and occasionally supervise bachelor and master thesis, as well as co-supervising doctoral studies. Interacting with interested and motivated students is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.

Since 2019, I am chairing the EPEC EPSC working group, along with Maike Neuland. This has been an amazing experience of creativity, networking, organizing, planning, interacting with other working groups and conference organizers, and working with great members of the this working group. I have learnt so much about how an event such as EPSC is being managed and how early careers can influence the larger community.

Solmaz Adeli

More information about Solmaz Adeli:

Contact: Solmaz.Adeli@dlr.de

Solmaz Adeli
Credit: Solmaz Adeli

If you are an Early Career member of the Europlanet Society and would like to be featured in an EPEC Profile, find out more about how to submit your profile.

See all the EPEC Profiles.

EPEC Profiles – Gene Schmidt

EPEC Profiles – Gene Schmidt

In this series from the EPEC Communication Working Group, we meet members of the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) community and find out more about their experiences and aspirations.

Gene Schmidt has been fortunate to travel throughout the world due to geology.

Credit: Gene Schmidt

My parents were both geologists and because of their various research projects I grew up living in Nevada, Montana, Argentina, and Michigan. Due to this type of upbringing I have had a strong interest in both geology and outer space since I was a child.

I received a bachelor’s degree in Geology from Western Michigan University and entered North Dakota’s 2008 oil boom as a well-site geologist aiding various oil companies in horizontal drilling. I later received a master’s degree in Earth Sciences at Brock University in Ontario, Canada where I began my research on the interior layered deposits of Mars.

I moved to Italy in 2017 to obtain a PhD in planetary geology from the International Research School of Planetary Science and obtained many opportunities to present my research across Europe. I am now a researcher at the University Roma Tre where I am continuing geologic research on Mars and expanding my research to Martian analogs, spectroscopy, and the Precambrian geology of Earth.

EPEC is a great community of young scientists with a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. It is a strong platform for anyone beginning research in various fields of outer space to create a network of like-minded scientists. I met many of my current colleagues and coauthors through EPEC and I enjoy the opportunity to help anyone who is just starting out and searching for some footing early in their career.

Gene Schmidt

More information about Gene Schmidt:

Contact: gene.w.schmidt@gmail.com

Credit: Gene Schmidt

If you are an Early Career member of the Europlanet Society and would like to be featured in an EPEC Profile, find out more about how to submit your profile.

See all the EPEC Profiles.

EPEC Profiles – Erica Luzzi

EPEC Profiles – Erica Luzzi

In this series from the EPEC Communication Working Group, we meet members of the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) community and find out more about their experiences and aspirations.

Erica Luzzi is currently enrolled as PhD student at Jacobs University Bremen and her research project consists of geological mapping on Mars within the European PLANMAP consortium.

Part of her PhD project was also funded by ESA within the Analog1 experiment. The latter experience brought her on a field mission in Lanzarote (Canary Islands), where, together with ESA astronauts, a variety of experiments were performed to test tele-robotic future exploration of the Moon and Mars, remote sensing through UAVs, and other field analyses that the astronauts will perform in future missions of human exploration.

More recently, Erica took part in a further version of Analog1 in which the ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano was controlling a rover located on Earth from the International Space Station, testing future missions on the Moon, where a rover will be located on the Moon’s surface and the astronaut will drive it, sampling rocks, safely from orbit. In this experiment Erica was in the backroom and was part of the science team that suggested to the astronauts what samples to collect based on what they could see from the camera on board the rover.

Erica Luzzi during a field campaign. Credit: All rights reserved by Erica Luzzi.

Something that she really loves apart from her PhD, is her position as Teaching Assistant for the courses of Structural Geology and Sedimentology. This is her biggest dream: getting to pass the knowledge to younger generations in the same way her professors did with her. Caring, and also stimulating because learning has to be fun, has to be a nourishment for curiosity.

Recently, Erica won the Amelia Earhart Fellowship, a $10 000 award for women pursuing their PhD in Space Sciences, that will allow her to have a budget for field trips studying terrestrial analogues, for buying new equipment and for attending conferences.

In 2021 she will pursue her doctorate and will look for post-doc opportunities. Even though she is dreaming of coming back to her beloved country, Italy, she stays open to all possibilities and is ready to work hard to get a permanent position at a university where she will be able, one day, to teach and keep doing research on the Red Planet.

Last but not least, Erica is currently in charge of organising the next EPEC Annual Week, which was supposed to take place in Padova in June 2020 but, due to the Covid-19, has been postponed to 2021. 

The EPEC Annual Week is a great opportunity for networking (I personally gained a couple of future co-authorships through this event) and also to learn how to deal with common problems at the beginning of the academic career, both psychological and for practical matters.

Erica Luzzi

More information about Erica Luzzi:

Social Media:

Contact: e.luzzi@jacobs-university.de

Credit: All rights reserved by Erica Luzzi.

If you are an Early Career member of the Europlanet Society and would like to be featured in an EPEC Profile, find out more about how to submit your profile.

See all the EPEC Profiles.

EPEC Profiles – Joana Marques Oliveira

EPEC Profiles – Joana Marques Oliveira

In this series from the EPEC Communication Working Group, we meet members of the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) community and find out more about their experiences and aspirations.

Joana Marques Oliveira is currently studying for a PhD at the Paris Observatory, section of Meudon. She is using occultations to study the atmosphere of Triton, focusing on an event that took place on the 5th October 2017, involving over 100 observers with both small and large telescopes, spread throughout Europe, Eastern America, and Northern Africa. Her goal is to find if the atmosphere changed in any way from Voyager 2’s fly-by in 1989 until the 2017 occultation event. This work is supported by the Lucky Star project, an ERC grant, led by her supervisor.


Joana Marques Oliveira. Credit: J. Desmars

Joana knew that she wanted to go into astrophysics from a young age, when she watched a movie about a female astrophysicist working in NASA. At that moment she realised that, not only astronomy was a career, but she could pursue it. She had a teacher in elementary school that helped her find how to start her career in this field, and she completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s programs in physics specialising in astronomy and astrophysics at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon, where her focus was on extragalactic astrophysics.

During those years, she was doing outreach at the Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences, in Lisbon. Being involved with the outreach program helped open doors for her, as well as teach her a lot about outreach and assembling small telescopes, a key skill for occultations. She has done quite a large number of outreach astronomical observing events, including one at a correction centre for minors, an incredibly eye-opening experience. She has even helped organise four conferences thanks to this, and in two of which she was part of the Local Organising Committee (LOC).

Joana Marques Oliveira. Credit: Pedro Machado

She got involved with the Occultations group, through her outreach work. She was interested in the topic, and she decided to work with the scientist in charge of the group on the last year of her Master’s, on a project to study Venus’s atmosphere, where she got to go to Hawai’i to help in an observation mission. They were accepted for a bilateral project between Portugal and France, the Program Pessoa, for the years 2017 and 2018, called OccultGaia.

After her Master’s, she applied for several PhD programs, and she was accepted by the Portuguese Science and Technology foundation to work on the occultation topic here in Paris. She is supporting EPEC as Chair of the Finances Group, and as a member of the Diversity Working Group.

Being part of a group of young researchers has been amazing. We all have different areas of focus within Planetary Science, yet, and we all have the same objective: to build a supportive and dynamic group, with great activities for everyone. I never thought I’d be involved with EPEC, and I feel honoured that they have accepted me to be Chair of the new Finances Group.

Joana Marques Oliveira

More information about Joana Marques Oliveira:

Social Media: Instagram

Contact: joana.oliveira@obspm.fr

If you are an Early Career member of the Europlanet Society and would like to be featured in an EPEC Profile, find out more about how to submit your profile.

See all the EPEC Profiles.

EPEC Profiles – Petr Broz

EPEC Profiles – Petr Broz

In this series from the EPEC Communication Working Group, we meet members of the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) community and find out more about their experiences and aspirations.

Dr. Petr Brož (1984) works as a researcher at the Department of Geodynamics of the Institute of Geophysics of the Czech Academy of Sciences from 2010, where he focus about the volcanism across the Solar System. He is mainly interested about kilometre-sized cones formed by explosive volcanic activity caused by magma degassing and water/magma interactions on the surface of Mars. His research is based on the analysis of the remote sensing data from the morphological and morphometrical point of view.

He obtained his Ph.D. degree (in 2015) at the Faculty of Science of the Charles University in Prague. During his study he completed an internship at DLR (Germany) and at the Open University (United Kingdom).

Dr. Brož is a laureate of the Nadání Josefa, Marie a Zdenky Hlávkových Prize for talented students and young researchers (under the age of 33) of the Czech Academy of Science and the Otto Wichterle Award which is given by the Czech Academy of Sciences to stimulate and encourage selected, exceptionally outstanding, promising young scientists at the Czech Academy of Sciences for their remarkable contributions to the advancement of scientific knowledge in a given area of science.

Dr. Brož demonstrating the Barrel Organ of Plate Techtonics

Together with Dr. Matěj Machek, he was also awarded by the price SCIAP 2016 for new and inspirational outreach model of plate tectonics. Dr. Brož is also dedicated to public speaking and writing in the attempt to popularise geosciences in the context of exploration of the Solar System.

“EPEC is an interesting initiative which is trying to build a European-based community of early career scientists and boost their cooperation as well as their careers.

Dr. Petr Brož

More info about Dr. Petr Broz:


If you are an Early Career member of the Europlanet Society and would like to be featured in an EPEC Profile, find out more about how to submit your profile.

See all the EPEC Profiles.

EPEC Profiles – Melissa Mirino

EPEC Profiles – Melissa Mirino

In this new series from the EPEC Communication Working Group, we meet members of the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) community and find out more about their experiences and aspirations.

Melissa Mirino is chair of the EPEC Communications Working Group
Melissa Mirino is Co-Chair of the EPEC Communications Working Group

Melissa Mirino is currently studying for a PhD in the field of planetary geology at the Open University (UK). For her doctoral dissertation, she is studying ancient river systems on Mars called inverted channels. 

Since she  was an undergraduate student at the University of Rome 3, Melissa’s main research interests have focused on the application of remote sensing in the geological study of rocky bodies in the Solar System. After pursuing her Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Geology, she took up many opportunities to study abroad, winning several scholarships and travel grants. As a result, she has collaborated with local and international research institutes and universities to develop projects in the field of planetary science. 

Melissa has worked with several kinds of datasets from the ESA Mars-Express, NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and NASA Dawn missions, analysing features on Mars, Vesta and Ceres in collaboration with the Italian institute INAF-IAPS and Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany. In 2017 she took part in an internship at the European Space Agency (ESA/ESTEC) to work with both radar and spectral data from the North Polar Cap on Mars. 

Melissa has also collaborated in international projects related to:

  • Astronaut Analogue Simulations (in collaboration with ESA, the Space Generation Advisory Council and Lunares).
  • A stratospheric balloon project (promoted by the International Space University and the University of South Australia)
  • Rover trials (as part of the OU team and Exo-fit simulation in support of the Exo-Mars rover mission).
Melissa Mirino. Credit: Maciej Urbanowicz

Melissa also has a personal interest in inspiring the next generation to pursue careers in science. As an undergraduate student she worked in a museum and planetarium located in Rome (Museo Geopaleontologico Ardito Desio) to engage students  with topics related to geology and astronomy. She worked as PhD tutor for the Brilliant Club, an award-winning charity that works with schools and universities across the UK to increase the number of pupils from under-represented backgrounds progressing to leading universities. As a PhD tutor, she developed and delivered tutorials about planetary geology. 

She was part of the organising team for the Space Rendezvous in Rome to organise informal meetings to discuss space-related topics with space enthusiasts (see Europlanet Inspiring Story – July 2019). Currently she is supporting EPEC’s activities as Co-Chair of the Communications Working Group.

“It is an honour for me to be the Co-Chair of the EPEC Communication Working Group. EPEC is allowing me to collaborate with other enthusiastic space professionals. This experience enables me to improve both my communication and leadership skills. This is a great experience to create something new in support of all Early Career space scientists.

Melissa Mirino

More info about Melissa Mirino: https://it.linkedin.com/in/melissa-mirino-616730121

Contact: melissa.mirino@community.isunet.edu

If you are an Early Career member of the Europlanet Society and would like to be featured in an EPEC Profile, find out more about how to submit your profile.