Jamie Molaro, PhD
Planetary Scientist, Artist, Nerd
I am Research Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute and an Affiliate at geographical host institution the Caltech/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I am also a former Participating Scientist and current Sample Science team member on NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission to retrieve a sample from asteroid Bennu. I also a Co-I on the Project for Exploration Science Pathfinder Research for Enhancing Solar System Observations (Project ESPRESSO), a node of the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). My work focuses on fracture processes and breakdown in rocky and icy material on airless bodies. I study the role of thermally induced stresses in boulder disaggregation and regolith production, and the contribution this makes to landscape evolution on the Moon, asteroids, dwarf planets, and comets. I work to understand how this cyclic processing changes the bulk properties of materials, causes fracture development, and the differences between rock and ice in the solar system. I also study ice sintering and the evolution of icy regolith on ocean worlds like Europa and Enceladus. Understanding their surface porosity, strength, and thermal and frictional properties has critical implications for future exploration efforts on these bodies. I study these processes at a variety of scales, from micro- to macroscopic, working to build an in-depth understanding the role thermal forcing plays in surface evolution. I employ a combination of numerical modeling and laboratory experiments in this research, along with the occasional terrestrial field study.
In 2013 I founded The Art of Planetary Science, an annual exhibition featuring art inspired by the solar system alongside works containing scientific information. We've hosted 13 art shows over the last decade throughout the United States. I've now expanded this work with my workshop Making Space: A Workshop on Space, SciArt, & Society. This workshop aimed at artists and educators is focused on using art as a tool to explore, learn about, and communicate scientific ideas, and demonstrates techniques in creating data-driven art.
I and the founder and executive director of DAIS (Disabled for Accessibility In Space), a peer networking, support, and advocacy group for disabled and chronically ill individuals working in space science and related fields and professions. This group has become a valuable resource for the disabled space community, and as director I contribute to DEIA efforts by speaking at conferences, writing white papers, and consulting on accessibility for conferences.
I also act as the Flight Operations Lead and Research & Publication Lead for Mission: AstroAccess, an initiative to make space and human spaceflight more accessible. We research accessibility accommodations for disabled and mixed-ability crews operating in space environments by sending disabled individuals on zero-gravity parabolic flights to perform experiments. In my role, I am a member of project leadership and manage over 50 volunteers, guiding the team in developing and implementing our research program.
Art the Science, on communicating science through art