Newsetter 16-24

Issue 16-24, June 28, 2016










The 2016 election for DPS Vice-Chair and Committee is now open, and will close on July 31st 2016.


To vote, go to You will need your AAS member login ID (which defaults to your 

membership number), and your password.


If you have trouble voting on line, the AAS can do a proxy vote and vote on your behalf (send an e-mail
to [email protected]). You will still get an automated email confirmation and a separate manual email, both
with who you voted for and a confirmation number.


You should vote for one of the two candidates for Vice-Chair: 


Catherine B. Olkin, Southwest Research Institute

Harold Reitsema, Ball Aerospace, Retired


The elected Vice-Chair will begin serving in October 2016 and will become the DPS Chair in October 2017.


You should vote for two of the five candidates for DPS Committee: 


Ashley Davies, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Karl Hibbitts, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Catherine Neish, University of Western Ontario

Britney Schmidt, Georgia Institute of Technology

Maria Womack, University of South Florida


The successful candidates will serve on the Committee for three years after October 2016.


The detailed vitae and position statements for each of the candidates follow.  

This information is also linked from the main election page





Candidate biographical notes and statements follow in alphabetical order.








Ph.D., MIT, Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, 1996

M.S., Stanford University, Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1989

B.S., MIT, Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1988



Southwest Research Institute (2004-present), currently Principal Scientist 

         (and Deputy Project Scientist on New Horizons mission) 

Lowell Observatory (1996-2004), Postdoctoral Researcher

MIT (1991-1996), Research Assistant

Jet Propulsion Lab (1989-1991), Member of Technical Staff 


Selected Awards and Honors:       

Laureate Award in Space from Aviation Week (to New Horizons Team), 2016

National Air & Space Museum Trophy Award (to New Horizons Team), 2016

Goddard Trophy (to New Horizons Team), 2016                                                                            

NASA Group Achievement Award to New Horizons Spacecraft Development Team, 2007


Community Service:

MIT Earth Atmospheric and Planetary Science Visiting Committee, 2014-present

Mentor to FIRST middle school and high school robotics teams, 2009-present

Liaison between the New Horizons Science Team and EPO team, 2008-2014

DPS Nominating Subcommittee, 2009 – 2012 


Statement: Olkin


Even though we are fortunate that planetary science excites and engages the public in a way that other fields of science often do not, our field faces significant issues that jeopardize our future.  Career threatening low success rates for R&A grants, a leaky pipeline for young researchers, and the struggles to meet Decadal Survey recommendations for the frequency of flight missions are just some of the challenges ahead.

There is no magic solution, but the first thing to remind ourselves is that the Division for Planetary Science is the largest professional organization of planetary sciences.  Our greatest strength is our diverse membership, which includes students, postdocs, university faculty, soft-money scientists, and civil servants. However to leverage this strength, we must be united as a community in our priorities and actions to advance planetary science. It will be particularly important in this election year and next, when we have newly elected representatives to educate them on the collective priorities of the community. We want to maintain a long-range vision that is resilient to election cycles.  

            I take pride in communicating the excitement of fundamental research and planetary exploration to the public and our elected representatives. I would be a tireless advocate for all the members of DPS to promote a strong planetary science program for both our nation and the world. 






Ph.D., New Mexico State University, Astronomy, 1977

B.A. Calvin College, Physics, 1972



Consultant to NASA, academia and aerospace industry, 2008-present

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Director of NASA Program Development, 1996-2008

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite Project Manager, 1989-1996

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Staff Consultant, 1982-1989

University of Arizona, Senior Research Associate, 1977-1982


Selected honors, awards:

NASA Group Achievement Award, New Horizons Spacecraft Development Team, 2007

NASA Group Achievement Award, Submillimeter Wavelength Astronomy Satellite Team, 2004

AIAA Rocky Mountain Region Engineer of the Year, 1989


Selected service to the community:

DPS Committee, 1991-1994

AAS Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy, 1990-1993

AIAA Associate Fellow, Astronomy Technical Committee Chair, 1991


Statement: Reitsema

Planetary Science continues to experience spectacular success in theoretical understanding, ground-based observations and space missions. This success results from a vibrant community of planetary scientists, a vibrancy that requires a continuous inflow of new people with new ideas. Thus a health planetary science community requires adequate and stable funding and transparent planning for the future. The DPS plays a critical role in supporting NASA and NSF in providing the resources for continued success. The Chair’s function includes keeping clear communication with funding agencies and Congress to ensure that their decisions are well-informed and achieve the best results for the Planetary Science community. We need to create new opportunities for research as well as ensure that existing capabilities and personnel are productively utilized. Other DPS services to the planetary science community include providing a forum and voice for members’ needs and concerns, including diversity, equality and promoting productive work environments.


My career has relied entirely on “soft money” and I understand the challenges that presents. My position at Ball Aerospace gave me open and active communication channels both with the science community to create opportunities for research and with Washington to understand and influence policy and funding activities. As the Vice-Chair for the DPS I will be able to utilize this experience for the benefit of the broad Planetary Science community.








Research Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory – California Institute of Technology.

My specific research interests:




Ph.D., Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK, 1988.

B.Sc. (hons), Combined Studies (Astronomy and Geology) University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK, 1984.



I have been at JPL for most of my professional career (since 1994). 

Research Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory – California Institute of Technology (1996+).

National Research Council Resident Research Associate, NASA/JPL (1994 – 1996).

UK Meteorological Office: Higher Scientific Officer (1990 – 1994).


Missions and projects:

•           Co-I, Europa Mission Mapping Imaging Spectrometer for Europa (MISE) (2015+)

•           Co-I and Science Lead, New Millennium Program (ST-6) Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment (ASE)(2001 – present)

•           ASTER Team Associate (2004 – present)

•           Research Scientist, Galileo NIMS Team (2001 – 2002)

•           Scientist, Galileo NIMS team (1996 – 2001)



Position Statement:

In this increasingly unusual election year, uncertainty surrounds the future of planetary science, and in particular, the future of research and analysis.   What is at the forefront of everyone’s minds?  If you are like me, I find myself increasingly thinking about long-term funding of research.  Just from asking around my colleagues, if you are a mid-career scientist the concern is whether or not your R&A or mission concept proposals will be selected.  If you are at the beginning of your post-Ph.D. career, it is finding a suitable post-doctoral position.  With spacecraft returning data from one end of the Solar System to the other and NASA Flagship missions coming to an end, our community is, in part, a victim of its own success – the community has grown considerably over the last two decades, attracting superb talent, but the R&A budget has not grown at the same pace.  What can be done?  The DPS is uniquely positioned to lobby to first maintain and then expand NASA’s investment in research and analysis.  The robust advocacy of the DPS Committee was of great help in the recent expansion of planetary R&A.  These new R&A programs are welcome.  This is a trend that should be encouraged at the ultimate funding sources – Congress and the Presidency.  If elected to the DPS committee, I would encourage and participate in enhanced lobbying of both the Executive and Legislative Branches, in a year when uncertainty rules and political change is inevitable.  DPS must prepare for this.  It is imperative to at least maintain our ground, but with a new administration and Congress, this is also a rare opportunity to seek gains. 





Scientist, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory 


Research Focus:  Planetary Science

The goal of my research is to understand the relationships between surface composition and surface processes.  I use infrared spectroscopy to probe composition and infer mechanisms, having obtained my PhD analyzing Galileo NIMS data to understand the nature and processes behind the CO2 trapped in the surfaces of Callisto and Ganymede.  I’ve expanded upon that theme to investigate the surface compositions of the airless Saturnian satellites using Cassini VIMS and have developed a unique laboratory facility to investigate proposed mechanisms.  I am intrigued by the possible ubiquity of volatile and refractory material interactions through-out the solar system, including exploring this mechanism for retaining water on the surface of the Moon and other airless, nominally anhydrous bodies.  I continue to be active in space missions, as the deputy PI of the MISE instrument on the Europa Mission, and deputy PI of the NASA balloon missions BRRISON and BOPPS, which were potential lower cost and high cadence mission concepts to explore new capabilities, test measurements, and introduce scientists to mission operations.



PhD, Geology & Geophysics, Univ. of Hawaii, 2001.

BA, Physics/Geology, Cornell Univ., 1989.


Professional History:

07/05 – Pres:         Professional Staff, JHU-Applied Physics Laboratory.

03/02– 07/05:        Research Scientist, Planetary Science Institute. 

11/01 – 11/03:        Research Associate, Dept. of Earth & Space Sci., Univ. of Wash.

08/01 – 11/01:  Post-doctoral researcher, HIGP, Univ. of Hawaii.


Professional Societies

American Astronomical Society, Division for Planetary Sciences

American Geophysical Union


Service to Community

R&A Review panel group chief, panel member, and external reviewer

Journal reviews (Icarus, Journal of Geophysical Research)

Senior Review of Planetary Science missions panel member

Organized sessions and/or chaired sessions at LPSC, DPS, AGU

Member of SDT’s (JSO, ROW, GHAPS)

Contributed whitepapers to Decadal Survey

Co-led planetary science workshops 



Professional organizations like DPS provide an essential service to the planetary community advocating on our behalf and supporting the community from within. It is always a challenging time to step into a career in planetary science and the DPS has helped create a climate where the broadest demographics of its membership are better represented in mission participation and research.  The DPS supports the full breadth of the technical diversity our community; we all enjoy attending its annual meeting for planetary science and value the opportunities it provides for collaborations and we publish in the DPS journal, Icarus.  The DPS support of the planetary R&A program, and of the Decadal Survey recommended cadence of Discovery, New Frontiers, and Flagship missions has helped ensure the currently healthy state of the planetary program.  The DPS committee has and must continue to ensure these community needs are met.


The good health of planetary science is far from given.  We are currently in a state of great flux with an administration unsupportive of planetary science yet a Congress providing great support.  The continued antipathy of the administration for a strong planetary budget is a challenge the DPS will likely continue to have to counter.  The current support in Congress can change, and the work of the FRS will be essential to continually inform our representatives of the value planetary science and the community’s priorities. NASA needs constant reminder as well of the importance of the R&A program we all rely upon.  The development of new programs such as Ocean Worlds needs the continuous support that DPS can provide. There are also burgeoning opportunities within NASA and internationally especially new ones emerging across the Pacific and elsewhere that the DPS, as an international society, has a role in supporting.  The DPS needs our continued support to ensure it will be able to continue to fulfill its responsibilities to us and also to continue its essential outreach. 


If elected to the committee I will work hard to ensure DPS continues to support the needs of the community as it has in past and will be able to identify and support new needs in the future. 





Assistant Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, The University of Western Ontario


Research Focus: Planetary Radar


I use orbital radar observations to study the geology of planetary surfaces, specializing in processes related to impact cratering. Radar is the best way to observe the surface of planets with large

opaque atmospheres, such as Venus and Saturn’s moon Titan, leading to a better understanding of their surface morphology. It also provides a wealth of information about the physical properties of the

surface being imaged, revealing features not easily seen with optical data alone. I am currently an associate member of the Cassini RADAR team, which continues to provide the highest resolution views of Titan’s surface. I was also a member of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s (LRO) Mini-RF science team. I have published papers on seven different planetary bodies in our solar system with data provided by ten different spacecraft.



2008: PhD, Planetary Sciences, The University of Arizona

2004: BSc, Combined Honours Physics and Astronomy, The University of British Columbia


Employment History:

2015 – present: Assistant Professor, The University of Western Ontario

2013 – 2015: Assistant Professor, Florida Institute of Technology

2012 – 2013: Postdoctoral Fellow, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

2009 – 2012: Postdoctoral Fellow, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory


Spacecraft Involvement:

• Member of the Chandrayaan-1 and LRO Mini-RF Science Team (2009 – 2014)

• Associate Team Member of the Cassini Radar Science Team (2010 – present)


Scientific Collaborations and Committees:

• Member, “Roadmaps for Ocean Worlds”, NASA Outer Planets Assessment Group (2016 – present)

• Executive Council, Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration, The University of Western Ontario (2015 – present)

• Collaborator, FINESSE Node, NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (2014 – present)


Meeting Organization:

• Member, SOC, 2nd Annual NASA Exploration Science Forum (2015)

• Member, SOC, Habitable Worlds Across Time and Space, STScI 2014 Spring Symposium (2014)

• Lead organizer, Titan Surfaces Workshop, FIT (2014)

• Member, SOC, 45th Annual Meeting of the AAS Division for Planetary Sciences (2013)

• Member, SOC, 6th Annual NLSI Lunar Science Forum (2013)

• Lead organizer, NLSI Workshop Without Walls, a virtual meeting on lunar swirls (2011)


Statement: Neish


DPS was the first professional meeting I attended as a graduate student, and it remains my favourite yearly meeting. I have attended every DPS meeting since Cambridge in 2005, and consider this community my extended scientific family. I would be honoured to represent your interests and concerns as a member of the DPS committee.


As a DPS committee member, I would focus on several important issues to our community. First, as a Canadian scientist, I would aim to build bridges between the US and international planetary science communities. The DPS committee has not had an international member since Athena Coustenis completed her term in 2009, and the concern for the lack of international representation was raised during last year’s members meeting. My international perspective would be informed by the the decade of experience I have working within the United States and participating in NASA funded projects. This combination – my familiarity with the US system, and my outside perspective as an international member – allows me to make a unique contribution to the DPS committee. To that end, I have recently bid to host the first DPS meeting in Canada. Canadian scientists and engineers are important contributors to many NASA and ESA missions, and if successful, this meeting could encourage more participation between international researchers and space agencies.


As a DPS committee member, I would also advocate for junior researchers. Access to affordable publishing options is critical for young researchers attempting to make their mark on the field, especially in these times of uncertain funding. As a young scientist, I was able to publish the majority of my papers in Icarus because of the lack of page charges. We need to keep our division journal available as a high-quality but affordable option for up and coming researchers, while continuing to explore options for open access. I would also aim to offer more assistance for child care at DPS meetings, an issue that is often borne by the younger members of our field. In addition to supporting the very successful Susan Niebur Professional Development Fund, we need to go a step further and help parents by investigating local options for care. It can be difficult to identify safe and affordable child care in a new city every year, and having every parent do this individually could be construed as wasted effort on the community’s part. As a first step, we can emulate our colleagues from LPSC in implementing a child care survey, to assess the level of need within our community. 


We live in a wonderful (if uncertain) time for planetary science. I look forward to sharing new discoveries and advancing our field together.





Ph.D., UCLA, (2010), MS (2007), Geophysics and Space Physics

B.S., (2005) University of Arizona, Physics



Georgia Institute Of Technology–School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Assistant Professor. 2013-present.

The Planetary Society—Board of Directors, 2016-present

University Of Texas At Austin –Institute for Geophysics, Research Scientist Associate V 2012-2013; Postdoctoral Fellow 2010-2011

University Of California At Los Angeles, –Graduate Student Researcher 2005-2010

University of Arizona, LPL–Undergraduate Researcher/Spacegrant, 2001-2005; 

Jet Propulsion Laboratory–NASA USRP Intern, 2003 & 2004



Europa Flagship Mission–Co-I: REASON Instrument

NASA Dawn Mission –E/PO Science Team Liaison; Framing Camera Team Associate


Academic Service:       

–Member, NASA Outer Planets Assessment Group steering panel, current

–SDT Memberships: LUVOIR STDT current, Europa Lander SDT, current

–Service: AAS-DPS Nominating committee (past) & Federal Relations (rolling off) 

–Organizing Committees:  Astrobiology Science Conference 2015, Astrobiology Graduate Student Conference 2012, Astrobiology Research Focus Group 2012 (Chair)

–Reviewer, NASA, ESA, GRL, Icarus, EPSL Journals,

–Professional Memberships: AGU, AAS-DPS, GSA, IGS


Selected honors:

2014 Asteroid 24413 Britneyschmidt named by the International Astronomical Union.

2013 Outstanding Early Career Researcher, University of Texas, Institute for Geophysics

2012 NASA Early Career Fellowship

2009, 2005 Outstanding Teaching Assistant, UCLA Dept. Earth & Space Sciences

2008 Simon J. Lattimer Award For Service, UCLA 

2005 Outstanding Student- University of Arizona Dept. of Astronomy


Statement: Schmidt


I would be positively honored to represent our community on the DPS Committee.In my estimation, we need a growing budget, we need to insure our community stability, and we need to invest for the future.  Thus, I offer the following three goals that would guide my service to the DPS community:

  1. Sustained growth in both the Planetary Science Budget and the NASA topline through advocacy on behalf of the membership—this is our community “budget.”
  2. Improving the impact of the DPS as the largest professional organization for Planetary Sciences by increasing our role within the AAS, and interactions with partner societies and industry—this is our community “insurance.”
  3. Improving support and networks for early career planetary scientists, particularly in the coming “decade of darkness” for outer planet missions—this is our community “investment.”


In 2011, the planetary science community, and in particular the sub-disciplines who are generally active within the DPS, were hit hard by fiscal reprioritization.  My own involvement with the Federal Relations Subcommittee started just after that, motivated by the fact that the noise floor on the challenging budget had been raised, but that there was a lack of congruence in what was being communicated to Congress and the Administration.  Due in part to the concerted efforts of the FRS over several years with concise, consistent messaging and bringing together that message across many interested groups, we are now reaping the benefits of quality communication and community prioritization—we began in 2012 supporting a minimum $1.5B FY14 for Planetary, and now we have a proposed budget from the House above 1.6B for Planetary Science.  I see consistent messaging as an essential priority that the DPS Committee should maintain in order to avoid future budgetary problems.  Insuring that our message is heard and is effective also means going beyond our internal priorities to working with the AAS in a productive manner, and continuing to collaborate with AGU, the AAAS, and industry partners, giving us strength in numbers and synergy across science that speaks with one voice. Focusing on a strategy for insuring the future of our work is of particular importance in the near term, as we face a changing Administration while many important and new missions are to be proposed and selected.  Now is not the time to rest on our laurels! 


I am also deeply concerned about the support available for early career (EC) researchers.  I’ve been very active in trying to ensure that EC folks have more representation in OPAG and other forums, but we cannot lose track of this goal. Today’s graduate students and postdocs are tomorrow’s PIs.  Phase D/E mission spending is declining, R&A competition is fierce, and limited access to postdoc and graduate positions threatens even the current crop of young investigators.  In the next ten years, it is unclear what stop gaps may be available to support in particular the already dwindling number of EC outer solar system investigators given that any missions will be in the development phase, and senior investigators rolling off of Cassini and Juno funds will only increase competition.  Young scientists need more than just a chance to do their science, they need their own voices in decision making, too. I think this is a critical role that the DPS can uniquely play in preserving the health of our community and I would like to help us facilitate more Early Career involvement by making an effort to find sustainable ways to increase DPS funding for EC participants for science and strategic meetings (e.g. AGs), and advocating within the community, NASA and the funding process to preserve opportunities for young investigators.


I am thrilled to have been asked to run for DPS office.  DPS 2003 in Monterey was my very first scientific conference, and kick started my involvement with the organization and has defined the path of my career, a favor I hope to repay to the community through this service.  






Research Professor, University of South Florida


-Scientific focus:

Using observational constraints (OIR and RMS spectroscopy and imaging) of comets and exoplanets to constrain 

planetary system formation models. 



Ph.D. Physics, Arizona State University, 1991

B.S. Physics, Florida State University, 1985


-Professional Positions:

University of South Florida, Research Professor, 2015- present

National Science Foundation Division of Astronomical Sciences

  Expert, spring 2016

  Program Director (rotating), 2011-2015

St. Cloud State University, Asst/Assoc/Professor 1997-2015

Penn State Erie, Asst Professor, 1994-1997 

Northern Arizona University, Postdoctoral Research Associate, 1992-1994


-Service & Outreach:

NSF Program Director, 2011-2016

APS Bridge Site at USF for URM students in physics, committee member, 2015 – present

NSF and NASA panel review service, various

Journal reviewer: Icarus, Astrophysical Journal, Astronomical Journal

SOC for IAU Colloquium No.186: “Cometary Science after Hale-Bopp,” 2000-2002 

NAU/NASA Planetary Watch for undergraduate research, instructor, 1994-6 (summers)

NAU/NASA Native American Stargazer high school camp, instructor, 1994-8 (summers)

NASA PDS Small Bodies Node International Halley Watch Peer Review, 1993


-Major Awards and Grant Funding (all for cometary science):

NSF, multiple since 1994, incl. Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER), 1996

NASA Planetary Astronomy, 2001

NASA-NSF Joint Hale-Bopp program, 1997-1999.



As a member of DPS for almost 30 years, I would be honored to serve on this committee. My experience as a university professor overlaps with that of many DPS members, when it comes to education, grant funding, and telescope access. While at NSF I was a strong advocate for planetary science issues. I created a portfolio of exoplanet awards and re-organized the planetary astronomy program (PLA) within the main individual-investigator program to include exoplanets. The helped consolidate and focus interest on issues related to the planetary field, and roughly doubled the number of proposals handled by PLA. This, in turn, increased the likelihood of recruiting future program directors from the field, which is healthier for planetary science. Working with colleagues at NSF and NASA Astrophysics, I created and helped develop the joint NASA-NSF Exoplanet Observations Research program (NN-EXPLORE) using the WIYN observatory. Working at NSF also gave me invaluable experience and understanding about funding, the individual-investigator programs, the mid-scale innovations program, and also the needs and pressures of federally funded facilities. My role as facilitator for the Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee allowed me to better understand Congressional mandates and to work closely with administrators at NASA and DOE as well as NSF. While at NSF I served as lead for both the Stellar (SAA) and Astronomy (PLA) programs and I think this broad experience helps me better understand how planetary issues fit into the larger picture at funding agencies.


As a committee member, I would work hard to serve the community, especially with regard to workforce issues, including improving the climate for underrepresented minorities and women, and increasing funding for planetary science.



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Anne Verbiscer, DPS Secretary ([email protected]


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