Graduate Students Laura Chaves and Adeene Denton awarded NASA FINESST Grants
Writer(s): Cheryl PierceTwo graduate students from the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences have been awarded grants from Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST). Laura Chaves and Adeene Denton have been awarded as NASA FINESST for their work in planetary sciences. Of the 246 proposals for the planetary division, only 34 were selected.
Chaves received the grant for her proposal titled, “Investigating the role of sulfides and Fe-oxides in the space weathering of asteroidal regoliths.” She is advised by Dr. Michelle Thompson.
"I study space weathering that refers to all the chemical and structural changes on the surfaces on airless planetary bodies like the Moon, Mercury, and asteroids that is caused by solar wind and micrometeorite impacts,” says Chaves. “I use different microscopy techniques to identify space weathering features in analog materials and particles collected from asteroid Itokawa. Historically, our knowledge of this process has focused on lunar samples but little is known about how it affects the surfaces of more compositionally complex bodies like asteroids. My work aims to determine the role of sulfide and Fe-oxide minerals in the space weathering of these planetary bodies. This award will not only provide me the financial support to complete my research project but it also highlights the research that is performed by underrepresented communities.”
Denton received the grant for her proposal titled, “Sputnik Planitia as a probe for Pluto's interior structure and global tectonic evolution.” She is advised by Dr. Brandon Johnson.
“My research aims to use the massive Sputnik Planitia impact basin on Pluto (also known as Pluto's ‘heart’ in images) as a tool to investigate the dwarf planet's interior,” says Denton. “By simulating the formation of Sputnik Planitia as well as its long-term geologic evolution, I can assess the thickness and thermal structure of the ice shell, the composition of the core, and whether a subsurface ocean could persist to the present day. The answers to these questions could potentially transform our understanding of large Kuiper Belt Objects, including their astrobiological potential. The project that was funded by NASA truly is my dream project - it's the kind of work I've always wanted to do, so getting the funding to do it opens so many doors for me. It has allowed me to connect with the New Horizons team, which is full of scientists I deeply admire, and sets me up for future success in my scientific career.”