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Articles and Oral Interviews of Scientists at Ames

The Science Directorate comprises researchers from the Earth, Space, and Biosciences Divisions. This collection showcases the breadth of research excellence at Ames through personal stories, challenges, and special moments of scientists on their journey.

Diana Gentry

Dr. Diana Gentry, a research scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, studies aerobiology (microbes in clouds), biodiversity, biomaterials, and biological systems. Dr. Gentry describes herself as at the nexus of both science and engineering where she speaks both languages and translates back and forth, helping scientists and engineers better understand what is required for a successful mission.

Matthew Johnson

Dr. Matthew Johnson’s research is in atmospheric chemistry, a branch of atmospheric science, which looks at the composition and chemistry of Earth’s atmosphere, such as aerosols and trace gas emissions, and how particles may impact human health. Dr. Johnson’s research interest is in combining remotely-sensed, modeling, and “in situ” (meaning locally, or on-site) data to evaluate aerosol and trace gas emissions, transport, chemical transformation, and deposition.
In this interview, we discuss Dr Johnson’s science journey from his early days living along the coast in North Carolina to now working as a scientist at NASA Ames, and his recent scientific publication using remote sensing data from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory, estimating carbon dioxide emissions during the 2018 Kilauea volcanic eruption.

Dan Whitt

Dr. Dan Whitt studies currents and the circulation of nutrients in ocean ecosystems. Dan describes his Ph.D. research on internal waves ‒ oscillations found where the ocean is stratified by density ‒ and compares this effect to an expertly-poured Arnold Palmer. The drink should form two layers, as the iced tea is less dense than sugary lemonade: “wobble the glass and you will see the interface slosh and overturn and mix the tea and the lemonade together ‒ this is what’s going on in the ocean interiors.” In this interview, we discuss how Dan got into oceanography, how modelling can help us predict the effects of climate change, and starting work at NASA Ames Research Center during a pandemic.

Ella Sciamma-O’Brien

Dr. Ella Sciamma-O’Brien is a research scientist in laboratory astrophysics and planetary science. As a member of the Astrophysics and Astrochemistry Laboratory at NASA Ames Research Center, Dr. Sciamma-O’Brien has been working on the Titan Haze Simulation (THS) experiment, developed on the NASA Ames Cosmic Simulation Chamber (COSmiC). In this interview, we chatted about Ella’s incredible journey in engineering and physics, applying as an astronaut at the European Space Agency, and her love for science and studying other worlds.

Naseem Rangwala

Dr. Naseem Rangwala is now the Branch Chief of Astrophysics. She conducts this interview during her past role as an astrophysicist and project scientist for the SOFIA mission. SOFIA, or the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is a modified Boeing 747 airplane carrying a large telescope. SOFIA observes the universe through long infrared wavelengths. As project scientist, Dr. Rangwala is responsible for managing the impactful science of the observatory. In this interview, we discuss what makes SOFIA’s research so unique, Naseem’s science journey, and why space science resonates so well in the general public.

Charles Gatebe

Dr. Charles Gatebe’s research focus is on clouds aerosols, ecosystem structure and function, albedo, and feedbacks to climate. In this interview, we chat about his science journey pursuing science, starting with his interest in studying Kenya’s air pollution, and how his research eventually led him to NASA.

Chris Potter

Dr. Chris Potter is a Research Scientist in Earth Science at the NASA Ames Research Center. In this interview, we discuss his research that is part of the collective project, the rapid response and novel research in earth science, which explores connections between COVID-19 and the environment. We also chat about field campaigns and working as a scientist at NASA Ames.

Christina Lim

Christina Lim is an Experiment Support Scientist with the Cell Science Project and the Biospecimen Sharing Program at Paragon-Tech, who work with NASA Ames. She is also a passionate science communicator and has worked in public outreach and education. In this interview, we chat a bit about her research and what advice she would give to scientists curious about becoming science advocates, or in their early-career stages in science.

Egle Cekanaviciute

Dr. Egle Cekanaviciute is a Principal Investigator and Research Scientist in the Radiation Biophysics Laboratory at the NASA Ames Research Center. She is also one of the Course Directors for STAR (Spaceflight Technologies, Application and Research), an intensive training course that trains the investigators working in space biology, preparing them for spaceflight experiments. In this interview, we talk about Egle’s research in Space Biosciences, and her inspiring journey moving from Lithuania to America to study neuroscience at Harvard University.

Penny Boston

Dr. Penny Boston is a woman of many talents! A notable academic with a background in microbiology and geology, Penny has investigated microbial life in the lab and in the field as a speleologist — someone who studies cave science. Most recently, Penny was Director of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute at the Ames Research Center.

Tori Hoehler

Dr. Tori Hoehler is a scientist at NASA Ames, with a background in chemistry and oceanography. He now studies the interaction of microbial communities with their environment, with an emphasis on the habitability of environments beyond Earth and the detectability of any life that may reside there.

Alfonso Davila

Dr. Davila is a research scientist in the Exobiology Branch at NASA Ames. His research focuses on the search for a second genesis of life in the solar system, using terrestrial analog environments to assess the potential habitability of other planetary bodies, and developing strategies for life detection based on first-principles in biology and biochemistry.

Amber McCullum

Dr. McCullum is an Applied Research Scientist for the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute (BAERI) at NASA Ames who is currently co-developing a drought tool with the Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources that includes remote sensing and ground-based data.