MRO Deputy Project Scientist
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Dr. Sue Smrekar, a planetary scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena Calif., is the deputy project scientist for NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. She helps coordinate the efforts of dozens of researchers working on the mission's eight scientific investigations. She was the project scientist for NASA's Deep Space 2 to deliver two small probes to Mars in 1999. Also while at JPL since 1992, she helped plan the science goals and capabilities for an advanced Mars rover now scheduled to launch in 2009 and worked on an instrument for a comet lander that was later cancelled. Besides Mars, one of her principal topics of research has been the volcanism on Venus, based on data from NASA's Magellan mission.
Smrekar grew up in Maine, earned her bachelor's degree in geophysics and mathematics from Brown University in Providence, R.I., and earned her doctorate in geophysics from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Prior to joining JPL, she conducted research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.
She comments, "Most kids don't think 'I want to be a planetary scientist when I grow up', and I was no exception. I had always had a general interest in astronomy and the space program, but had never heard of a planetary scientist. In college, a planetary geology class was what really inspired me. It put together all the things I love: exploration, solving puzzles, but with a practical purpose. Every time a new mission explores a planet, we discover things we had never imaged. That challenges our understanding of how planets work, and makes us reevaluate our understanding of the Earth."