Margaret Deahn awarded Zonta International Amelia Earhart Fellowship - Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences - Purdue University Skip to main content

Margaret Deahn awarded Zonta International Amelia Earhart Fellowship


Margaret Deahn

Margaret Deahn has had three internships with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. Above, she is seen in front of models of NASA’S Mars 2020 Perseverance rover, the Ingenuity Helicopter, and Mars Sample Return, all of which she has worked with in her studies at Purdue University.  Photo provided by Margaret Deahn.


Margaret Deahn says she could have never imagined as a child that she would grow up to study rocks on other planets. But now she has three internships at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) and an education in planetary sciences with Purdue University on her growing list of accomplishments. Now she can add Amelia Earhart Fellow to that list. She is one of only 30 scientists worldwide receiving a 2024 Zonta International Amelia Earhart Fellowship. Deahn is a PhD student with Purdue University’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS).

“Receiving the Zonta International Amelia Earhart Fellowship is special to me because I am inspired by Amelia Earhart’s legacy as a mentor to young women in STEM at Purdue. Mentorship is so important - especially when navigating unfamiliar spaces, and I am grateful to all of the women who have supported me throughout my academic journey so far,” says Deahn. “The majority of the women in my family did not pursue higher education, especially within STEM, so having the opportunity to work with my PhD and master’s advisors Drs. Briony Horgan and Martha (Marty) Gilmore has shown me what it means to be a successful scientist and mentor and has helped me to feel confident to pursue a career in planetary geology. I’m incredibly grateful to have been awarded this fellowship in my first year of my PhD, as it will give me more freedom and flexibility to achieve my research and networking goals as I progress through the program. I plan to follow in my advisors’ footsteps as a mentor to other women in STEM in my future career. I hope to continue Amelia’s legacy in inspiring young women to pursue careers in STEM and Zonta’s mission to support women’s rights, through my involvement in K-12 outreach at Purdue and as a volunteer at the Greater Lafayette’s YWCA Domestic Violence Intervention and Prevention Program.”


Zonta International is a leading global organization of individuals working together to build a better world for women and girls. The Amelia Earhart Fellowship was established in 1938 in honor of famed pilot and Zontian, Amelia Earhart. The $10,000 Fellowship is awarded annually to up to 30 women pursuing Ph.D./doctoral degrees in aerospace engineering and space sciences. Since the program’s inception in 1938, Zonta has awarded 1,734 Amelia Earhart Fellowships, totaling more than $11.6 million, to 1,305 women from 77 countries. The list of 2024 fellowships includes two Purdue University students, Deahn and Stephanie Menten, both from the EAPS department with the Purdue University College of Science.

“I was born and raised in Buffalo, New York (Go Bills!) and am the fourth generation in my family to graduate from Clarence High School. At 10 years old I decided my life goal was to become a geologist,” she says. “I completed my BA in geological sciences with double minors in mathematics and geography in 2021 at the State University of New York College at Geneseo. Ten-year-old me never imagined I could study rocks on other planets, but I was fortunate enough to receive an offer to intern at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) the summer of my junior year through the Summer Undergraduate Program for Planetary Research (SUPPR) where I fell in love with remote sensing and planetary geology. This program pairs undergraduates with NASA-sponsored planetary scientists, and connected me with an advisor at JPL, an opportunity that was extremely valuable to me coming from a small undergraduate-only liberal arts college that (at the time!) did not have a planetary program.”

Deahn is advised by Prof. Briony Horgan at Purdue University’s College of Science. She credits her past and present advisors for giving her the support she needs to succeed in the field.

“The combination of this experience and support from my advisors Drs. Matthew Golombek and Nathan Williams at NASA JPL and Dr. Nicholas Warner at Geneseo gave me the confidence and resources to pursue a graduate degree in planetary geology, and I completed an honors thesis constraining the preservation potential of amphitheater-headed canyons on Mars,” she says. “I then received my MA in earth and planetary sciences at Wesleyan University in 2023 where I mapped the target descent site for NASA’s upcoming DAVINCI probe in Alpha Regio, Venus. I have interned at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory two additional times, characterizing landing sites for various Mars missions, and am currently working as a student collaborator for the Mastcam-Z instrument on NASA’s Mars 2020 rover science team.”

In the upcoming school year, she and the other fellowship awardees will be hosted at a Zonta International ceremony where they will be presented with a certificate and a fellowship wings pin.


About the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University

The Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) combines four of Purdue’s most interdisciplinary programs: Geology & Geophysics, Environmental Sciences, Atmospheric Sciences, and Planetary Sciences. EAPS conducts world-class research, educates undergraduate and graduate students, and provides our college, university, state and country with the information necessary to understand the world and universe around us. Our research is globally recognized, our students are highly valued by graduate schools, employers, and our alumni continue to make significant contributions in academia, industry, and federal and state government.




Margaret DeahnPhD student with the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences 

Written by Cheryl Pierce, Communications Specialist

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