Planetary Science People - Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences - Purdue University

Planetary Science

The Moon


Faculty | Postdocs | Graduate Students



Andy Freed, Professor

Andy Freed's website

Andy received his PhD from the U. of Arizona in 1998, and after postdoc stints at UC Berkeley and The Carnegie Institution of Washington, joined EAPS in 2003. Andy’s research utilizes numerical modeling to understand a variety of time-dependent geodynamical processes that involve viscous flow and conductive cooling, including terrestrial projects dealing with crustal and mantle rheology, postseismic processes, and earthquake triggering, and planetary projects such as the full evolution of impact basins from transient crater formation through isostatic adjustment and faulting associated with lava emplacement and cooling. Andy teaches a variety of courses including the popular Geoscience in the Cinema class for non-majors and several graduate classes in geodynamics.



Briony Horgan, Assistant Professor

Briony Horgan's faculty page

Briony received her BS in Physics from Oregon State University in 2005 and her PhD in Astronomy and Space Sciences from Cornell University in 2010, then was an Exploration Postdoctoral Fellow at Arizona State University until joining EAPS in 2014. Her research program uses mineralogy data from NASA satellites and rovers, along with lab and field work back on Earth, to understand the geologic history of Mars and the Moon. Briony is a Participating Scientist on NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover mission and a Co-I on NASA’s upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission, the first step toward Mars Sample Return.



Jay Melosh, Distinguished Professor

Jay Melosh's faculty page

Jay is a Distinguished Professor of EAPS and also holds appointments in the departments of Physics and Astronomy and Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering. He received his PhD in Physics and Geology from Caltech. His principal research interests are impact cratering, planetary tectonics, and the physics of earthquakes and landslides. His recent research includes studies of the giant impact origin of the moon, the K/T impact that extinguished the dinosaurs, the ejection of rocks from their parent bodies, and the origin and transfer of life between the planets. He was a science team member of NASA's Deep Impact mission that successfully cratered comet Tempel 1 and flew by comet Hartley 2, and he is a Co-Investigator of the GRAIL mission that returned detailed data on the Moon’s gravity field. Asteroid #8216 was named "Melosh" in his honor. He was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was awarded the McCoy award of Purdue University.



David Minton, Assistant Professor

David Minton's website

David earned his BS degree in Aerospace Engineering from NC State in 2003 and his PhD from the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in 2009. Under the tutelage of Prof. Renu Malhotra, he learned about the beauty of orbital mechanics and how we can use the dynamics of small body populations to infer the history of the early solar system. Following his PhD, he worked as a postdoc at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, where with Hal Levison and Bill Bottke he explored the formation and early evolution of the solar system. David joined EAPS in 2011, where his research group works on a variety of projects involving the history of the early solar system, the formation of satellites, the cratering history of airless bodies, and the physical and dynamical evolution of asteroids and comets. When not on Purdue's campus, David enjoys spending time with his wife Juliet and his children Leo and Emilia, and can occasionally be spotted playing his fiddle at a local Irish pub.




Toshi Hirabayashi, Postdoctoral Associate

Toshi is a postdoctoral associate at EAPS working with Dave Minton and Jay Melosh on modeling the evolution of crater-generated porosity in the lunar crust, using a crater terrain evolution model in conjunction with constraints from GRAIL gravity data. Using a Monte-Carlo simulation code, CTEM, and an impact simulation code, iSALE, he is investigating crater generation and formation. Toshi is also interested in dynamics and mechanics, such as theoretical modeling of gravity fields in an irregularly shaped body.



Rebecca Smith, Postdoctoral Associate

Rebecca received her BS in Geology from UC Berkeley in 2010 and her PhD in Geology from Arizona State University in 2016. Rebecca’s research utilizes laboratory and remote sensing techniques as well as fieldwork to try to constrain chemical weathering environments on Mars. Her work with Professor Briony Horgan at Purdue University focuses on characterizing the composition of amorphous weathering products found in soils and sediments formed in a variety of terrestrial weathering environments, in order to understand the importance of amorphous phases found in Gale Crater on Mars. She is also a Mars Science Laboratory science team collaborator.


Graduate Students

Sheridan Ackiss, PhD Student

Sheridan received her BS in Applied Mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2012. After graduation, Sheridan worked at the Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland as a member of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) Science Team. Her research uses remote sensing data to study the mineralogy and morphology of possible subglacial volcanoes on Mars. This research is complimented by analog field studies in both Oregon, U.S.A. and Iceland. Sheridan is a science team collaborator on both the Mars Science Laboratory and Mars 2020 rover missions.



Jacob Elliot, MS Student

Jake was raised in Norfolk, VA, moving to Indianapolis, IN at the beginning of high school. After spending a year at Indiana University for Nursing, he transferred to Purdue to study Atmospheric Sciences, where he would later pick up Planetary Sciences. His undergraduate research focused on explaining the length of lunar crater rays. After graduating, he chose to stay at Purdue for his Master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics. He currently works with David Minton and David Spencer to explain the formation of the Martian moons and propose a CubeSat mission to investigate. Jake enjoys camping, weightlifting, and going to concerts.



Kevin Graves, PhD Student

Kevin earned his BS in Physics in 2013 from Truman State University. He is currently a PhD student in the EAPS department at Purdue University. He has a passion for problem solving, data analysis, and coding. His research currently focuses on physical mechanisms that cause asteroids to alter their surface properties. He hopes to help explain why certain asteroids look similar to ordinary chondritic meteorites, and why others have stayed weathered in the space environment.



Cesare Guariniello, AAE Research Associate/EAPS MS Student

Cesare received an MS in Automation and Robotics Engineering and an MS in Astronautical Engineering at the University of Rome "La Sapienza". He then earned a PhD in Aeronautics and Astronautics at Purdue University. While continuing his engineering work as a research associate in the department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, he is also completing an MS in Planetary Science, using remote sensing to combine engineering and scientific requirements for the selection of human landing sites on Mars. His research spans System-of-Systems modeling and analysis, planetary geology, remote sensing, space systems design and architecture evaluation, and robotics.



Andrew Hesselbrock, PhD Student

Andy attended Miami University to earn a B.S. in Physics. Staying at Miami, he received his Masters in Physics while studying the rotational dynamics of Nereid, a moon of Neptune. He then enrolled at Purdue to earn his Physics PhD. Working with Dr. Minton he has created a computer simulation to model the formation of the Martian satellites from debris disks. In addition to research, he also enjoys teaching astronomy and participating in outreach events with the public. While not pondering the mysteries of the universe, he spends his free time rock climbing, backpacking, cycling, and playing "unique" musical instruments.



Ya-Huei Huang, PhD Student

Ya-Huei (黃雅惠) comes from the south of Taiwan. She gets inspired by a variety of things such as black holes, comic books, college life, Grunge, and now impact cratering science! She earned her BS in Physics from National Chung-Cheng University, surrounding by pineapple farms. She earned her MS in Physics from National Tsing-Hua University and was doing protein folding dynamics after then. Currently she focuses on impact craters and is developing a model that tracks impact-generated material transport on the Moon. She enjoys learning geophysics, reading Apollo sample papers, and living in the cornfields of Indiana!



Jordan Kendall, PhD Student

Jordan received his BS in Physics and Mathematics from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in 2009. He is currently a PhD Candidate in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Purdue University. Jordan's research focuses on hydrocode modeling (in iSALE) of large asteroids striking planetary bodies. He modeled the fate of differentiated impactors during accretionary impacts. Currently, he is investigating the South Pole-Aitken basin-forming impact on the Moon. Using high resolution 3D models, he determines the emplacement of the ejecta blanket for different impactor sizes, velocities, and angles.



Marie McBride, PhD Student

Marie received her BS in Solar, Earth, and Planetary Sciences from the Florida Institute of Technology in 2013. After graduation, Marie worked at Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, CA as a member of the Mars Curiosity Rover’s MAHLI camera team before returning to Purdue to earn a PhD in Planetary Science. Marie’s research focuses on volcanic deposits found on the Moon. She uses spectroscopy of glasses on the lunar surface as well as analog samples on Earth to understand the volcanic eruptions from which they formed. Marie is a science team collaborator on both the Mars Science Laboratory and Mars 2020 rover missions.  



Noel Scudder, PhD Student

Noel received his BS in Physics and Astronomy/Planetary Sciences from Stony Brook University in 2015. His research involves understanding the geologic and climate history of Mars through investigation of weathering processes in cold Mars analog environments. His work combines remote sensing data analysis, laboratory work, and fieldwork at the Three Sisters volcanic complex in Oregon. Noel is a science team collaborator on the Mars Science Laboratory and Mars 2020 rover missions.



Alexander Trowbridge, PhD Student

Alex earned his BA in Physics at Colorado College, during which time he also worked at the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore on a way to improve alignment efficiency of the Neutron Imaging System and at U. of New Mexico’s Center for High Technology Materials developing multi-junction solar cells. Here in EAPS, Alex focuses on hydrocode (iSALE) and finite element modeling (Abaqus) to analyze the full evolution of impact basins, from small basins to the large South Pole Aitken. He also studies the convection of nitrogen surface ice and the water-ice mantles on Pluto. When not doing research, Alex enjoys rock climbing, backpacking, canyoneering, skiing, and caving.


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