Dr. Jennifer Stern is a Space Scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, specializing in the study of the chemistry of the atmosphere and surface of Mars, and instrument development for geochemical measurements on planetary surfaces. In particular, she is interested in whether Mars ever had a nitrogen cycle, and how we look to terrestrial Mars-like environments to understand both biological and abiotic nutrient cycling. She is a member of the science team for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Rover Curiosity and the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite, one of the 10 instruments on Curiosity, which uses mass and laser spectrometry to measure the chemical composition of the atmosphere and surface of Mars. She is also the Payload Development Lead for the Gas Chromatography subsystem on the Dragonfly Mass Spectrometer, which will fly on the Dragonfly mission to Titan.
Back on Earth, Dr. Stern runs the Stable Isotope Facility in the Planetary Environments Laboratory (PEL) where she studies the carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen isotope systematics of terrestrial and laboratory planetary analogs of Mars and Titan. She is also interested in the Arctic as an analog for Mars and Ocean Worlds, and has spent 4 field seasons in the Arctic.
Dr. Stern has a BA in Geology-Biology from Brown University and a PhD in Geochemistry from Florida State University, where she developed analytical techniques for isotope and trace metal analysis of environmental waters in order to trace the impacts of agriculture in the Florida Everglades and methane emissions from landfills. She decided to apply her interest in geochemistry to astrobiology as a postdoctoral fellow at NASA Ames Research Center and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, where she studied how organic molecules can be formed by non-biological processes occurring in meteorites and at hydrothermal vents. Today, in parallel with her participation on the Curiosity team conducting experiments on Mars, she participates in field expeditions to places where geochemical processes similar to those that may have occurred Mars are recorded in Earth’s rock record, such as Greenland, Svalbard, and southern Mexico.