Sciences and Exploration Directorate

Jessica L Noviello


Jessica L Noviello's Contact Card & Information.
Phone: 301.286.1111
Org Code: 693
Mail Code 693
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Brief Bio

Dr. Noviello is currently an assistant research scientist with the Center for Space Science and Technology (CSST) at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). She works at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via the cooperative agreement called CRESST II.

Her most current work is investigating when and how cryovolcanism would have resurfaced Pluto's largest moon Charon, and how the process of cryovolcanism works in general. She is also involved in a project working on the geophysical and geochemical modeling of the interiors of ultra-short period exoplanets, particularly KOI 1843.03.

Formerly, Dr. Noviello was the NExSS NASA Postdoctoral Management Program (NPMP) Fellow. She worked with the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) research coordination network Co-Leads and members to organize events, run meetings, and facilitate research activities. She is an expert in coordinating interdisciplinary research, especially as it relates to NASA Astrobiology. As part of her NPMP, she also created and ran the Professional Advancement Workshop Series (PAWS).

She is an expert in Europa surface geology and geophysics, asteroid surface geology, and the Kuiper Belt object Haumea. She is building up her skills in exoplanet atmospheres and statistical analyses.

Research Interests

Current Projects

The microfeatures of Europa's surface

Surface Properties

Europa's surface is peppered with small (<100 km^2 in area) features that I call microfeatures. The formation processes of these microfeatures are not well understood, though there are a couple of models that are more likely. One of these models implies that there are pockets of liquid water within the ice shell that are actively forming a particular type of microfeature. I am actively working to publish papers from my PhD dissertation that examines how these microfeatures are related to each other spatially on Europa, which offers clues as to how they form. If I can verify one formation model over another, then I will be able to suggest (with evidence) where on Europa to send future missions. To do this work I use a combination of image processing, geomorphic mapping, and spatial statistics.

Kuiper Belt Object Haumea

Minor planets

This is work I began as part of my postdoc at Arizona State University. It is a two-pronged approach into the evolution of the KBO Haumea, with one approach focused on the geophysical evolution and the other focused on the geochemical evolution. Haumea is the largest rapidly spinning body in the solar system. Its surface is covered in water ice and it is associated with its own dynamical family, the only one known among KBOs. The work that I do focuses on how that entire system may have evolved based on the changes that Haumea underwent during differentiation, and evaluates whether Haumea could have ever sustained a subsurface liquid water ocean. If it did, then it would be the most distant ocean world ever discovered (at 43 AU from the Sun!).

How to Faciliate Interdisciplinary Research

Human Dimensions

As a part of my management duties, I help create and execute opportunities for members of NExSS teams to talk to each other so that new collaborations and ideas may germinate. I am also actively leading at least two white papers as a result of the NExSS Habitable Worlds 2021 workshop held in February 2021. One of these papers will discuss the logistics of the conference extensively, and the other will focus on the benefits and needs of interdisciplinary research.

The surface geology of 25143 Itokawa


I quantified the sizes, shapes, and locations of blocks on the surface of asteroid 25143 Itokawa, which was visited by the JAXA mission Hayabusa. It is a small asteroid--only 500 m long--and thought to be a contact binary asteroid, which hints to a catastrophic past. The blocks on its surface could be clues as to how it formed and evolved. It is (as of June 2021) the only asteroid for which we have a mission-returned sample of. I am using the information I collected on Itokawa to connect it to the histories of other asteroids, specifically 101955 Bennu (the target of the OSIRIS-REx mission) and 162173 Ryugu (the target of the Hayabusa-2 mission).

The VALENTInE Mission


I was a part of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Planetary Science Summer School in 2020. Our team proposed a New Frontiers-class Venus balloon mission called the Venus Air and Land Expedition: a Novel Trailblazer for In situ Exploration (VALENTInE). This mission uses a variable altitude balloon to float passively in Venus' atmosphere, collecting multiple atmospheric profiles in multiple locations. We are currently working on a long mission concept manuscript to describe our goals and mission details (mechanical, orbital, etc.). If this mission were real, it would be an excellent complement to the NASA DAVINCI+ mission that will visit Venus' surface, and the NASA VERITAS and ESA EnVision missions that will use radar to study Venus' clouds and surface.


Assistant Research Scientist

University of Maryland, Baltimore County - Greenbelt, MD

February 2024 - Present

NExSS NASA Postdoctoral Management Program Fellow

Universities Space Research Association (USRA) - NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

January 2021 - February 2024

Postdoctoral Researcher

Arizona State University - Tempe, AZ

September 2019 - January 2021

Graduate Student Researcher

Arizona State University - Tempe, AZ

August 2014 - August 2019


PhD in Geological Sciences (Planetary Geology) -- Arizona State University (2019)

Dissertation Title: Identification and Quantitative Classification of Europa's Microfeatures: Implications for Microfeature Formation Models and the Europa Clipper Flagship Mission

BS in Physics -- The Johns Hopkins University (2014)

BA in Earth and Planetary Science -- The Johns Hopkins University (2014)

Professional Societies

The American Geophysical Union (AGU)

2014 - Present

The Division of Planetary Sciences

2014 - Present

American Astronomical Society


2014 - Present

Professional Service

Elected member of the Division of Planetary Science Nominating Committee (since October 2023)

Selected Publications


2022. "Let It Go: Geophysically Driven Ejection of the Haumea Family Members." The Planetary Science Journal 3 (9): 225 [10.3847/psj/ac8e03] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "VALENTInE: A Concept for a New Frontiers–Class Long-duration In Situ Balloon-based Aerobot Mission to Venus." The Planetary Science Journal 3 (7): 152 [10.3847/psj/ac7324] [Journal Article/Letter]

Selected Public Outreach

The NExSS Science Communications Working Group

February 2020 - 2023

The official science communication branch of NExSS

Science on Main

March 2018 - May 2020

I was a founding member of and science writer for Science on Main. Once a month, a group of subject matter experts would set up a booth on the public event Second Fridays on Main in Mesa, AZ and we'd answer any and all questions from the public to the best of our abilities. I also wrote weekly stories on the Science on Main blog about interesting new science and science stories. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to our in-person activities, and I moved to Maryland before it started up again.

Subject Matter Expert for Facts Machine Podcast

May 2018 - Present

I am one of the subject matter experts for the Facts Machine podcast team. I advise on the topics of space, geology, and dinosaurs. I've even been a guest on one of their episodes: Facts that Hold Water. Link here:

Spacepod Podcast guest

July 2021 - July 2021

I was a guest for the Spacepod podcast episode 186: What's more powerful than a dinosaur? In this podcast I talked about the story of the interdisciplinary work in the 1970s and 1980s that led to the hypothesis that the non-avian dinosaurs were wiped out by an impact event. We now know a lot about the impact crater, Chicxulub, and the bolide that hit. Spoiler alert: it was an asteroid, not a comet.