Solar System Exploration Division

Danielle Simkus

(ASSISTANT RESEARCHER SCIENTIST)

 danielle.n.simkus@nasa.gov

 301.614.5887

Org Code: 691

NASA/GSFC
Mail Code: 691
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Employer: CATHOLIC UNIV OF AMERICA

Brief Bio


Dr. Danielle Simkus is a researcher in the Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Dr. Simkus' research focus is on investigating the soluble organic content of meteorites and other astromaterials. She primarily uses gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) techniques to characterize, quantify, and measure the stable isotopic and enantiomeric signatures of prebiotic organic molecules (e.g., aldehydes, ketones, alcohols, monocarboxylic acids, amino acids) in extraterrestrial samples. Her work aims to better understand the abiotic processes involved in the synthesis and preservation of prebiotic organic matter relevant to the origin of life.

Positions/Employment


Assistant Research Scientist

CRESSTII / Catholic University of America - NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

January 2021 - Present


Postdoctoral Research Fellow (NASA Postdoctoral Program)

Universities Space Research Association - NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

January 2018 - January 2021


Graduate Research Fellow

Department of Mineral Sciences, National Museum of Natural History - Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

2014 - 2014


Junior Research Scientist in Microbiology

University of Alberta - Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

2010 - 2011


Microbiology Lab Technician

University of Alberta - Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

2010 - 2011


Junior Research Scientist in Astrochemistry

University of Alberta - Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

2009 - 2010

Education


Ph.D. (Earth and Atmospheric Sciences - 2018) University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada

  • Thesis: "The Prebiotic Synthesis of Soluble Organic Matter in Carbonaceous Chondrites and the Influence of Asteroidal Aqueous Alteration". Advisor: Dr. Christopher Herd

M.Sc. (Earth and Environmental Sciences, Collaborative Graduate Program in Astrobiology - 2013) McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada

  • Thesis: "Exploring Microbial Communities and Carbon Cycling within the Earth's Deep Terrestrial Subsurface". Advisor: Dr. Greg Slater

B.Sc. (Double Major in Biological Sciences and Earth & Atmospheric Sciences - 2011) University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada

Professional Service


  • OSIRIS-REx Science Team Collaborator (2020 - Present)
  • Co-Founder and Co-Organizer of the NASA Goddard Early Career Scientist Spotlights (ECSS) (2020 - Present)
  • Prebiotic Chemistry and Early Earth Environments (PCE3) Seminar Series Co-Organizer (2021 - 2023)
  • NASA Goddard Association of Postdoctoral Scholars (NGAPS+) Co-President (2019 - 2020), Advocacy Co-Officer (2020 - 2021), Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Subcommittee Member (2021), ECSS Lead and Advisor (2020 - Present)
  • NASA Goddard Early Career Scientist Forum, Organizing Committee Member (2019)
  • Executive Secretary and Panelist for proposal review panels (ROSES, FINESST, and NESSF) (2018 - Present)
  • Co-Founder and Co-Organizer of the Grace Anne Stewart Speaker Series, University of Alberta (2015 - 2017)

Awards


  • NASA Goddard Sciences and Exploration Directorate - Special Act Award (2023)
  • NASA Goddard Sciences and Exploration Directorate - Special Act Award (2022)
  • NASA Goddard Sciences and Exploration Directorate - Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity - Group Award (2021)
  • NASA Goddard Annual Code 690 Peer Award (2021)
  • NASA Goddard Code 690 Special Thanks and Recognition (STAR) Award (2021)
  • Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Scholarship (2016 – 2018)
  • Gordon A. McKay Award, The Meteoritical Society (2016)
  • Astromaterials Training and Research Opportunities (ASTRO) Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX) Graduate Student Travel Award (2015)
  • Graduate Student Fellowship, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (2014)
  • NASA-Nordic Astrobiology Winter School Scholar (2014)
  • President's Doctoral Prize of Distinction, University of Alberta (2013 – 2016)
  • NSERC Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship (2013 – 2016)
  • University of Alberta Professional Development Award (2013)
  • NSERC Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) M.Sc. Fellowship (2011 – 2013)
  • Sao Paulo Advanced School of Astrobiology Scholar (2011)
  • NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award (2009)
  • University of Alberta Entrance Scholarship for Academic Excellence (2006)

Publications


Refereed

Glavin, D. P., S. A. Eckley, J. C. Aponte, et al. E. L. Berger, A. S. Burton, J. P. Dworkin, J. E. Elsila, F. T. Ferguson, Y. Furukawa, H. V. Graham, T. Koga, M. Liss, H. L. McLain, H. Naraoka, Y. Oba, E. T. Parker, K. Righter, P. Schmitt‐Kopplin, D. N. Simkus, Y. Takano, H. C. Connolly, and D. S. Lauretta. 2023. Investigating the impact of x‐ray computed tomography imaging on soluble organic matter in the Murchison meteorite: Implications for Bennu sample analyses Meteoritics and Planetary Science [10.1111/maps.14111]

Simkus, D. N., J. C. Aponte, J. E. Elsila, et al. H. L. McLain, E. T. Parker, J. P. Dworkin, and D. P. Glavin. 2021. Low total abundances and a predominance of n ‐ω‐amino acids in enstatite chondrites: Implications for thermal stability of amino acids in the inner solar system Meteoritics & Planetary Science 56 (11): 2118–2127 [10.1111/maps.13757]

Smith, H. H., A. S. Hyde, D. N. Simkus, et al. E. Libby, S. E. Maurer, H. V. Graham, C. P. Kempes, B. Sherwood Lollar, L. Chou, A. D. Ellington, G. M. Fricke, P. R. Girguis, N. M. Grefenstette, C. I. Pozarycki, C. H. House, and S. S. Johnson. 2021. The Grayness of the Origin of Life Life 11 (6): 498 [10.3390/life11060498]

Glavin, D. P., H. L. McLain, J. P. Dworkin, et al. E. T. Parker, J. E. Elsila, J. C. Aponte, D. N. Simkus, C. I. Pozarycki, H. V. Graham, L. R. Nittler, and C. M. Alexander. 2020. Abundant extraterrestrial amino acids in the primitive CM carbonaceous chondrite Asuka 12236 Meteoritics & Planetary Science 55 (9): 1979–2006 [10.1111/maps.13560]

Aponte, J. C., H. L. McLain, D. N. Simkus, et al. J. E. Elsila, D. P. Glavin, E. T. Parker, J. P. Dworkin, D. H. Hill, H. C. Connolly, and D. S. Lauretta. 2020. Extraterrestrial organic compounds and cyanide in the CM2 carbonaceous chondrites Aguas Zarcas and Murchison Meteoritics & Planetary Science 55 (7): 1509-1524 [10.1111/maps.13531]

Simkus, D., J. C. Aponte, J. E. Elsila, et al. E. T. Parker, D. P. Glavin, and J. P. Dworkin. 2019. Methodologies for Analyzing Soluble Organic Compounds in Extraterrestrial Samples: Amino Acids, Amines, Monocarboxylic Acids, Aldehydes, and Ketones Life 9 (47): 30 pages [10.3390/life9020047]

Simkus, D. N., J. C. Aponte, J. E. Elsila, et al. R. W. Hilts, H. L. McLain, and C. D. Herd. 2019. New insights into the heterogeneity of the Tagish Lake meteorite: Soluble organic compositions of variously altered specimens Meteoritics & Planetary Science 54 1283-1302 [10.1111/maps.13276]

Simkus, D. N., J. C. Aponte, R. W. Hilts, J. E. Elsila, and C. D. Herd. 2019. Compound-specific carbon isotope compositions of aldehydes and ketones in the Murchison meteorite Meteoritics & Planetary Science 54 (1): 142-156 [10.1111/maps.13202]

Orata, F. D., A. R. Rosana, Y. Xu, et al. D. N. Simkus, A. R. Bramucci, Y. Boucher, and R. J. Case. 2016. Draft Genome Sequences of Four Bacterial Strains Isolated from a Polymicrobial Culture of Naked (N-Type)Emiliania huxleyiCCMP1516: TABLE 1  Genome Announcements 4 (4): e00674-16 [10.1128/genomea.00674-16]

Rosana, A. R., F. D. Orata, Y. Xu, et al. D. N. Simkus, A. R. Bramucci, Y. Boucher, and R. J. Case. 2016. Draft Genome Sequences of Seven Bacterial Strains Isolated from a Polymicrobial Culture of Coccolith-Bearing (C-Type)Emiliania huxleyiM217: TABLE 1  Genome Announcements 4 (4): e00673-16 [10.1128/genomea.00673-16]

Herd, C. D., R. W. Hilts, A. W. Skelhorne, and D. N. Simkus. 2016. Cold curation of pristine astromaterials: Insights from the Tagish Lake meteorite Meteoritics & Planetary Science 51 (3): 499-519 [10.1111/maps.12603]

Simkus, D. N., G. F. Slater, B. S. Lollar, et al. K. Wilkie, T. L. Kieft, C. Magnabosco, M. C. Lau, M. J. Pullin, S. B. Hendrickson, K. E. Wommack, E. G. Sakowski, E. V. Heerden, O. Kuloyo, B. Linage, G. Borgonie, and T. C. Onstott. 2016. Variations in microbial carbon sources and cycling in the deep continental subsurface Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 173 264-283 [10.1016/j.gca.2015.10.003]

Hilts, R. W., C. D. Herd, D. N. Simkus, and G. F. Slater. 2014. Soluble organic compounds in the Tagish Lake meteorite Meteoritics & Planetary Science 49 (4): 526-549 [10.1111/maps.12272]

Herd, C. D., A. Blinova, D. N. Simkus, et al. Y. Huang, R. Tarozo, C. M. Alexander, F. Gyngard, L. R. Nittler, G. D. Cody, M. L. Fogel, Y. Kebukawa, A. L. Kilcoyne, R. W. Hilts, G. F. Slater, D. P. Glavin, J. P. Dworkin, M. P. Callahan, J. E. Elsila, B. T. De Gregorio, and R. M. Stroud. 2011. Origin and Evolution of Prebiotic Organic Matter As Inferred from the Tagish Lake Meteorite Science 332 (6035): 1304-1307 [10.1126/science.1203290]

Herd, C., A. Blinova, D. N. Simkus, et al. Y. Huang, R. Tarozo, C.-D. Alexander, F. Gyngard, L. R. Nittler, G. D. Cody, M. L. Fogel, Y. Kebukawa, A. Kilcoyne, R. W. Hilts, G. F. Slater, D. P. Glavin, J. P. Dworkin, M. P. Callahan, J. E. Elsila, B. T. De Gregorio, and R. M. Stroud. 2011. Origin and evolution of prebiotic organic matter as inferred from the Tagish Lake meteorite Science 332 1304-1307 [10.1126/science.1203290]