Extraterrestrial Materials and Planetary Science

Solar System NASA
Solar System NASA

HIGP’s diverse team of researchers use:

  • Laboratory analyses of cosmic dust, returned planetary samples, and meteorites
  • Remote sensing data from orbital satellites, landers, and rovers

to unravel the mysteries surrounding the origin and evolution of our Solar System.

Extraterrestrial Materials: We study the chemical, isotopic, and structural properties of extraterrestrial materials with analyses conducted in state-of-the-art facilities.

Planetary Science: We develop and use remote sensing data, laboratory experiments, mathematical modeling, and traditional field geology to answer questions about the processes that occur on planetary surfaces and in their interiors.

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Overview of HIGP Laboratories:

  • The W. M. Keck Cosmochemistry Laboratory is built around a Cameca ims 1280 ion microprobe, which measures isotopic and trace-element abundances in natural and man-made materials.
  • The Advanced Electron Microscopy Center features a Titan aberration-corrected scanning transmissioin electron microscope (S)TEM and a Helios NanoLab 660 Dual Beam Focused Ion Beam instrument (FIB).

Collectively, ~$20M of instrumentation supports extraterrestrial materials research. These laboratories are training grounds for students and attract scientists from throughout the University, the nation, and the world. The discoveries we make allow us to glimpse into the very birth of our Solar System and to better understand its geologic evolution.

Overview of Planetary Science Research:

HIGP faculty have a long history of participation in planetary exploration missions. Current faculty are members of the science teams for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission and the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample-return mission.

We also conduct fundamental science research pertaining to the evolution, composition, and workings of the planets and moons of our Solar System. Current projects include the search for water and volatiles on the Moon and asteroids, how space weathering alters the surfaces of planetary bodies and confounds our attempts to decipher their chemical composition, how studying Hawaiian volcanoes can inform us about the origins of Martian volcanoes, and how biological material might be transported to the surface of Saturn’s moon, Titan, from the ocean beneath, such that we might detect it and answer the question: Are we alone?


Tayro Acosta-Maeda

Assistant Researcher

Joseph Boyce

Affiliate Faculty

John P. Bradley

Researcher, Manager of Advanced Electron Microscopy Center

Rhett Butler


Caroline E. Caplan

Post Doctoral Researcher

Bin Chen

Associate Researcher

Emily Costello

Post-Doctoral Researcher/Affiliate Faculty

Przemyslaw Dera


Elena Dobrica

Assistant Researcher

Miles Egan

Graduate Student

Chiara Ferrari-Wong

Graduate Student

Abigail Flom

Graduate Student

Thomas Giguere

Lunar science staff

Jeffrey J. Gillis-Davis

Affiliate Faculty

Gary R. Huss

Researcher, Director of W.M. Keck Cosmochemistry Laboratory

Hope A. Ishii

Director of AEMC

Klaus Keil

Emeritus Faculty, Planetary science

Shuai Li

Assistant Researcher

Paul G. Lucey


Warren McKenzie

Graduate Student

Linda M. V. Martel

Academic Support

Anupam K. Misra


Pete Mouginis-Mark

Emeritus Faculty, Director of PRPDC

Kazuhide Nagashima

Specialist, Manager of W.M. Keck Cosmochemistry Laboratory

Kenta Ohtaki

Electron Microscopy Specialist and Lab Manager / Affiliate Faculty

Chris A. Peterson

PRPDC volunteer

Lauren Schurmeier

Post-Doctoral Researcher/Affiliate Faculty

Shiv K. Sharma


Lingzhi Sun

Post-Doctoral Researcher

G. Jeffrey Taylor

Emeritus Faculty, Planetary science

David Trang

Assistant Researcher

Lionel Wilson

Affiliate Faculty

Frances (Frankie) Zhu

Assistant Researcher, HSGC Associate Director
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