Sciences and Exploration Directorate

Adrian Edward Southard

(Research Associate)


Org Code: 699

Mail Code: 699
Greenbelt, MD 20771


Brief Bio

My graduate studies in the chemical physics program at University of Maryland enabled me to explore new material synthesis, deposition, and characterization methods. I have utilized this expertise to develop applications for both organic materials and new forms of carbon such as carbon nanotubes. I have also examined organic field-effect transistors to gain a deeper understanding of the charge transport mechanisms in organic materials.
I have been working for Universities Space Research Association under the GESTAR cooperative agreement at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. I enjoy using my background in chemical physics to design, propose, test, and simulate instruments that will allow us to look for past and present habitable environments. 


Current Projects

Mars organic molecular analyzer Mass Spectrometer


MOMA-MS aims to sample Martian soil as much as 2 meters deep and look for organics that may have survived exposure to radiation over billions of years. My focus is to provide the mass spectrometer with a  a fast response pressure gauge that will ensure its safe operation.

In situ mineral composition analysis via xray spectroscopy.

Planetary Geology

The mineralogy of planetary  surfaces is crucial in understanding the evolution of a planet.  The goal of this project is to develop higher resolution compositional maps of surfaces by bombarding the surface with high energy electrons so as to generate characteristics x-rays from the sample.

AROMA (Advanced Resolution Organic Molecular Analyzer)


AROMA is a higly sensitive, high-resolution (m/dm > 10,0000) mass analyzer capable of measurements of trace levels (< ppmw) of organic and inorganic compounds in icy environments of interest to planetary science.

Molecular Analyzer for complex refractory and organic-rich samples


The outcome of the proposed work will be a MACROS instrument laboratory
prototype that will determine inorganic mineral composition, broadband organic
sample content, and detailed structural analysis of high-priority compound
classes for a thorough understanding of the chemistry of planetary surface

Characterization of Ocean Realms and Life Signatures (CORALS)


CORALS is a transformative laser-based mass spectrometer that will redefine
our understanding of Europa as a potentially habitable world through the detection/unambiguous identification of molecular biosignatures, and the chemical analysis of surface materials.



Here, we propose to develop a highly capable laser-based mass spectrometer that will transform our understanding of the Earth-Moon system. This comprehensive, versatile, and low SWaP (Size, Weight, and Power) in situ investigation will deliver:
1. Noninvasive, spatially resolved (micron-scale) compositional analysis of lunar regolith,
crustal rocks, and/or mantle-derived materials via laser ablation microprocessing with a
beam that can be scanned across the sample surface to generate 2D chemical maps;
2. Quantitative measurements of major and minor elemental composition, including cations
(e.g., transition metals) and anions (e.g., halogens), and trace levels of organic content over
a wide range of volatilities, ionization potentials, and molecular weights (up to 1000 Da);
3. Unrivaled disambiguation of atomic and molecular (polyatomic) isobaric interferences
and isotopologues via ultrahigh mass resolving powers and mass accuracy; and,
4. High-precision (percent scale) determinations of isotopic ratios and abundances.

A Fluidic Trap for Life Detection in Icy Planetary Env.: Part II


To develop the interface (i.e., Fluidic trap or FT) between a fluid delivery subsystem and a gas chromatography - mass spectrometer. This project aims to improve the limits of detection for such an interface.


Senior Scientist & Manager 2021- present

Universities Space Research Association - NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Bldg. 37 S229

September 2021 - Present

Management of a group of multidisciplinary scientists/engineers working in the fields of heliophysics, cryospheres, and planetary sciences.

Teaching Experience

Teaching assistant of Introductory Physics at New College (1998)
Teaching assistant at Univ. of Florida in Introductory Physics Lab (2000-2001)
Teaching assistant at Univ. of Maryland in Introductory Chemistry Lab (2001-2002)


Ph.D. in chemical physics from the University of Maryland College Park
Bachelor of Arts in Physics from New College of Florida

Professional Societies

I am currently a member of ASMS (American Society of Mass Spectrometry) However, I've also been a member of APS and MRS.

2015 - Present


2012 IRAD Innovator of the Year Team Award

Selected Publications


Getty, S. A., J. P. Dworkin, D. P. Glavin, et al. M. G. Martin, Y. Zheng, M. A. Balvin, A. E. Southard, S. H. Feng, C. A. Kotecki, C. A. Malespin, and P. R. Mahaffy. 2013. Organics Analyzer for Sampling Icy Surfaces: a Liquid Chromatograph-Mass Spectrometer for Future in situ Small Body Missions IEEE Aerospace Conference Proceedings

Getty, S. A., J. P. Dworkin, D. P. Glavin, et al. M. A. Balvin, C. Kotecki, A. E. Southard, and J. Ferrance. 2013. In situ instrument to detect prebiotic compounds in planetary ices SPIE Newsroom [DOI: 10.1117/2.1201302.004703]

Glavin, D. P., C. A. Malespin, I. Ten kate, et al. S. A. Getty, V. E. Holmes, E. Mumm, H. B. Franz, M. G. Noreiga, N. J. Dobson, A. E. Southard, S. H. Feng, C. A. Kotecki, J. P. Dworkin, T. Swindle, J. E. Bleacher, J. W. Rice, and P. R. Mahaffy. 2012. Volatile Analysis by Pyrolysis of Regolith for Planetary Resource Exploration IEEE Aerospace Conference Proceedings 1-11, 3-10 [10.1109/AERO.2012.6187065]