Sciences and Exploration Directorate

Shawn D Domagal-Goldman (he/him)

(Deputy Director)

Shawn D Domagal-Goldman (he/him)'s Contact Card & Information.
Phone: 301.286.5432
Org Code: 600
Mail Code 600
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Brief Bio

I am the Deputy Director of the Sciences and Exploration Directorate at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. I work with the rest of the directorate office to oversee our workforce, which enables science investigations across disciplines and our science divisions. We design, build, fly, and model and analyze data from missions that observe Earth, the Sun, our Solar System, and the universe beyond. I work to improve the culture of our directorate, and the larger institutions it is a part of. In particular, I am dedicated to improving the diversity, inclusivity, and sense of belonging in these organizations.

My research backround is in astrobiology, Earth systems science, and comparative planetology. Most of this work is done by the amazingly talented early career researchers I have collaborated with, who span career stages from high school interns through postdocs and research scientists. The diverse, interdisciplinary team that I co-mentor with Dr. Giada Arney and Dr. Ravi Kopparapu simulates the atmospheres of other worlds, including those of ancient Earth, modern Mars, ancient Mars, and exoplanets. We have used outputs from those simulations to interpret data from some of Earth’s most ancient rocks, from the Mars Curiosity rover, and to simulate the capabilities of future space-based telescopes designed to look for life on exoplanets.

The work this team has done has provided me with tremendous opportunities to serve on multiple interdisciplinary research and mission teams, including the Curiosity science team, the HabEx Science and Technology Definition Team (STDT), the Exoplanet-Starshade Probe Misscion Concept STDT, the Large UV-Optical-Infrared Surveyor (LUVOIR) Study Office, the Virtual Planet Laboratory (VPL), and the Resolving Orbital and Climate Keys of Earth and Extraterrestrial Environments with Dynamics (ROCKE-3D) team. I'm also involved in the leadership of the Nexus for Exoplanet Systems Science.

Finally, I'm passionate about science communication, and believe it is our responsibility as publicly-funded scientists to bring the results of our research back to the public. To this end, I've helped organize FameLab events in the US... and am always looking for new opportunities to talk about NASA science in public forums.

Selected Public Outreach

Featured Stories

2016 - Present

This is an article in Quanta Magazine that discusses the complexities associated with the search for life on exoplanets. It starts with a description of the moment when I realized that O3 can build up on planets without life, in certain circumstances. You can see the paper that I published on that subject here.

Gravity Assist Podcast: Is Our Solar System Weird?

July 2020 - July 2020

This is a an episode of the podcast "Gravity Assist" - hosted by NASA Chief Scientist Jim Green - that I was the guest on.

TEDx MidAtlantic: How NASA is answering the question: Are we alone?

May 2016 - May 2016

This was a TEDx MidAtlanatic talk on the past 20 years and the next 20 years of exoplanet exploration, and some of the things we need to realize those long-term goals.

Early Career Spotlight Series - How I Became and Asrobiologist

March 2017 - March 2017

This is a video made by Mike Toillion based on an interview on my career path towards being and astrobiologist.

Research Interests

Rocky Extrasolar Planet Characterization

Solar System: Extrasolar Planets

Our team is currently working on three aspects of terrestrial-sized extrasolar planet characterization:

1.) the potential for "false positives" and "false negatives" for life to misinform our spectral analyses of these objects,

2.) the degree to which we can constrain habitability of known or candidate extrasolar planets with current measurements, and prioritize future observations, and

3.) mission/instrument design for exoplanet characterization.

The tools we use for this are a series of models of the atmospheres of other planets, the spectra those planets produce, and the imaging of those spectra by exoplanet missions. The atmospheric models are what I spend most of my time developing. In the past, most of this work has been done as part of the Virtual Planetary Laboratory, using their 1-dimensional, altitude-dependent atmospheric models, but we are also partnering with the Goddard Institute for Space Science to develop a planetary 3D GCM based on their Earth GCM, ModelE.

Modeling Archean Geochemical Proxies

Solar System: Astrobiology

I am interested in using atmospheric models (photochemical and climatological) to recreate signals observed in the Archean rock record - a time period on Earth when there was life but no molecular oxygen (O2) in the atmosphere. This work will improve our understanding of the evolution of life on Earth, and inform our search for life on other planets as we learn more about the "most alien biosphere" we currently  have data on.

This work is being done as part of the Virtual Planetary Laboratory, a lead node of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. Specifically, I'm working on the second task of that team, to "Characterize the Environment, Habitability and Biosignatures of the Earth Through Time." We want to uncover the history of biological metabolisms (e.g., methanogenesis, oxygenic photosynthesis, etc.) on the planet, and leverage that knowledge to simulate the biosignatures of the biosphere for different metabolic eras in the planet's history. This will give us a wider set of examples for the biospheres we can look for on extrasolar planets.

The reason to focus on early Earth as an example of an extrasolar biosphere is that we have a rock record with which to constrain our conceptual and numerical models. The data in the rock record I find most useful are isotopic proxies, which can deliver a tremendous depth and breadth of information about early Earth. My role in the interpretation of these proxies is to propose hypotheses that can explain as many data sets as possible, and use atmospheric models to test whether the hypotheses can explain the data given reasonable boundary conditions. Ideally, we also use model outputs to propose new geological proxies to look for in tests of the hypotheses.

Molecular Modeling of Astrobiologically-Significant Chemical Reactions

Solar System: Astrobiology

This is a line of work that has lied dormant for a few years, but that I would be interested in reviving with the right collaborations or student or postdoctoral fellow in our group. In this research, we would utilize molecular modeling tools such as density functional theory to explore the reaction rate constants, equilibrium constants, and reaction pathways for chemical reactions of astrobiologal significance. For example, we could examine reactions that are relevant to the chemistry of planetary atmospheres, the production and preservation of isotopic proxies in the Earth's most ancient rocks, or the habitability of environments on other worlds.


Research Space Scientist, Planetary Environments Laboratory

NASA - Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD

2013 - 2018

NASA Astrobiology Management Postdoctoral Fellow

Oak Ridge Associated Universities - NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC

July 2010 - July 2012

Research Associate

Virtual Planetary Laboratory - University of Washington, Seattle, WA

July 2008 - July 2010


Branch Chief, Planetary Systems Laboratory

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center - Greenbelt, MD

2018 - Present


Ph.D. in Astrobiology and Geosciences, August 2007
Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
Committee: J. F. Kasting (Co-advisor), J. D. Kubicki (Co-advisor), M. A. Arthur, J. O. Sofo
Dissertation: Modeling Novel Isotopic Proxies for the Oxygenation of the Earth’s Surface

M.S. in Geochemistry, May 2002
University of Rochester, Rochester, NY
Advisor: A. D. Anbar
Thesis: Modeling Net Primary Production in the Archean as a Function of Temperature

B.S. in Physics
, May 2001
University of Rochester, Rochester, NY
Advisor: A. D. Anbar
Thesis: Using Fe Isotope Ratios in Banded Iron Formations as a Potential Geothermometer



2024. "Retrievals Applied to a Decision Tree Framework Can Characterize Earthlike Exoplanet Analogs." The Planetary Science Journal 5 (1): 7 [10.3847/psj/ad09b1] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "The TRAPPIST-1 Habitable Atmosphere Intercomparison (THAI). I. Dry Cases—The Fellowship of the GCMs." The Planetary Science Journal 3 (9): 211 [10.3847/psj/ac6cf0] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "The TRAPPIST-1 Habitable Atmosphere Intercomparison (THAI). III. Simulated Observables—the Return of the Spectrum." The Planetary Science Journal 3 (9): 213 [10.3847/psj/ac6cf1] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "Accurate Machine-learning Atmospheric Retrieval via a Neural-network Surrogate Model for Radiative Transfer." The Planetary Science Journal 3 (4): 91 [10.3847/psj/abe3fd] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "EarthShine: Observing our world as an exoplanet from the surface of the Moon." Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems 8 (01): 014003 [10.1117/1.jatis.8.1.014003] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Call for a framework for reporting evidence for life beyond Earth." Nature 598 (7882): 575-579 [10.1038/s41586-021-03804-9] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "TRAPPIST Habitable Atmosphere Intercomparison (THAI) Workshop Report." The Planetary Science Journal 2 (3): 106 [10.3847/psj/abf4df] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Claimed Detection of PH3 in the Clouds of Venus Is Consistent with Mesospheric SO2." The Astrophysical Journal Letters 908 (2): L44 [10.3847/2041-8213/abde47] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Detectability of Molecular Signatures on TRAPPIST-1e through Transmission Spectroscopy Simulated for Future Space-based Observatories." The Astrophysical Journal 898 (2): L33 [10.3847/2041-8213/aba4a1] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Sensitive probing of exoplanetary oxygen via mid-infrared collisional absorption." Nature Astronomy 4 (4): 372-376 [10.1038/s41550-019-0977-7] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "Absolute Prioritization of Planetary Protection, Safety, and Avoiding Imperialism in All Future Science Missions: A Policy Perspective." Elsevier Space Policy [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "An Ensemble of Bayesian Neural Networks for Exoplanetary Atmospheric Retrieval." The Astronomical Journal 158 (1): 33 [10.3847/1538-3881/ab2390] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "The L 98-59 System: Three Transiting, Terrestrial-size Planets Orbiting a Nearby M Dwarf." The Astronomical Journal 158 (1): 32 [10.3847/1538-3881/ab2459] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "Exoplanet Biosignatures: At the Dawn of a New Era of Planetary Observations." Astrobiology 18 (6): 619-629 [10.1089/ast.2018.1862] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "Exoplanet Biosignatures: Understanding Oxygen as a Biosignature in the Context of Its Environment." Astrobiology 18 (6): 630-662 [10.1089/ast.2017.1727] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "Exoplanet Classification and Yield Estimates for Direct Imaging Missions." The Astrophysical Journal 856 (2): 122 [10.3847/1538-4357/aab205] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "Organic Haze as a Biosignature in Anoxic Earth-like Atmospheres." Astrobiology 18 (3): 311-329 [10.1089/ast.2017.1666] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "The Habitability of Proxima Centauri b: Environmental States and Observational Discriminants." Astrobiology 18 (2): 133-189 [10.1089/ast.2016.1589] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "Venus: The Making of an Uninhabitable World (white paper submitted in response to the solicitation of feedback for the "Astrobiology Science Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe" by the National Academy of Sciences)." ArXiv e-prints [Full Text] [Report]

2018. "Explicit cloud representation in the Atmos 1D climate model for Earth and rocky planet applications." AIMS Geosciences 4 (4): 180-191 [10.3934/geosci.2018.4.180] [Journal Article/Letter]

2017. "Pale Orange Dots: The Impact of Organic Haze on the Habitability and Detectability of Earthlike Exoplanets." The Astrophysical Journal 836 (1): 49 [10.3847/1538-4357/836/1/49] [Journal Article/Letter]

2016. "The Pale Orange Dot: The Spectrum and Habitability of Hazy Archean Earth." Astrobiology 16 (11): 873-899 [10.1089/ast.2015.1422] [Journal Article/Letter]

2016. "Carbon Monoxide and the Potential for Prebiotic Chemistry on Habitable Planets around Main Sequence M Stars." Astrobiology 16 (10): 744-754 [10.1089/ast.2015.1435] [Journal Article/Letter]

2016. "The electric wind of Venus: A global and persistent “polar wind”-like ambipolar electric field sufficient for the direct escape of heavy ionospheric ions." Geophysical Research Letters 43 (12): 5926–5934 [10.1002/2016gl068327] [Journal Article/Letter]

2016. "13C and 15N fractionation of CH4/N2 mixtures during photochemical aerosol formation: Relevance to Titan." Icarus 270 421-428 [doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2015.04.016] [Journal Article/Letter]

2016. "IDENTIFYING PLANETARY BIOSIGNATURE IMPOSTORS: SPECTRAL FEATURES OF CO AND O 4 RESULTING FROM ABIOTIC O 2 /O 3 PRODUCTION." The Astrophysical Journal 819 (1): L13 [10.3847/2041-8205/819/1/l13] [Journal Article/Letter]

2015. "LOWER LIMITS ON APERTURE SIZE FOR AN EXOEARTH DETECTING CORONAGRAPHIC MISSION." The Astrophysical Journal 808 (2): 149 [10.1088/0004-637x/808/2/149] [Journal Article/Letter]

2015. "The imprint of atmospheric evolution in the D/H of Hesperian clay minerals on Mars." Science Vol 347 412-414 [[DOI:10.1126/science.1260291]] [Journal Article/Letter]

2013. "Erratum: Habitable Zones Around Main-sequence Stars: New Estimates’' (2013, ApJ, 765, 131)." The Astrophysical Journal 770 82 [doi:10.1088/0004-637X/770/1/82] [Journal Article/Letter]

2012. "A Bistable Organic-rich Atmosphere on the Neoarchaean Earth." Nature Geoscience 5 359–363 [doi:10.1038/ngeo1425] [Journal Article/Letter]

2012. "Habitable Zones Around Main-sequence Stars: New Estimates." The Astrophysical Journal 765 131. [Journal Article/Letter]

2011. "Using Biogenic Sulfur Gases as Remotely Detectable Biosignatures on Anoxic Planets." Astrobiology 11 419–41 [doi:10.1089/ast.2010.0509] [Journal Article/Letter]

2010. "Abiotic Buildup of Ozone." Pathways Towards Habitable Planets 1–6 [Journal Article/Letter]

2009. "Quantum Chemical Study of the Fe(III)-desferrioxamine B Siderophore complex—Electronic Structure, Vibrational Frequencies, and Equilibrium Fe-isotope Fractionation." Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 73 1–12 [doi:10.1016/j.gca.2008.09.031] [Journal Article/Letter]

2008. "Density Functional Theory Predictions of Equilibrium Isotope Fractionation of Iron Due to Redox Changes and Organic Complexation." Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 72 5201–5216 [doi:10.1016/j.gca.2008.05.066] [Journal Article/Letter]

2008. "Organic Haze, Glaciations and Multiple Sulfur Isotopes in the Mid-Archean Era." Earth and Planetary Science Letters 269 29–40 [doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2008.01.040] [Journal Article/Letter]

2008. "A Revised, Hazy Methane Greenhouse for the Archean Earth." Astrobiology 8 1127–37 [doi:10.1089/ast.2007.0197] [Journal Article/Letter]

2006. "Astrobiology Influx to Astrobiology in Flux." Astrobiology 6 397–399 [doi:10.1089/ast.2006.6.397] [Journal Article/Letter]


2019. "Wide-Orbit Exoplanet Demographics." baas 51 (3): 505 [Report]

2017. "Exploring Other Worlds: Science Questions for Future Direct Imaging Missions (EXOPAG SAG15 Report)." eprint arXiv:1708.02821 -- [Report]