Meet our NSF Graduate Research Fellows: Shaunna Morrison

Shaunna Morrison with the Mars Curiosity RoverDegree Program: Master of Science

Research Focus: Rare Earth Elements

I have been given the incredible opportunity to be a part of the NASA Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission.

The aptly named 'Curiosity' Rover is the most advanced ever sent to Mars - with its 11 instruments and 17 cameras, it is a robotic geologist and will give us great insight into the past habitability of the Red Planet.

My role in the mission is as a Science Team member and a CheMin instrument Payload Uplink Lead (PUL). CheMin, the first X-ray diffractometer (XRD) ever sent to space, will definitively identify and measure the abundances of various minerals on Mars. My job as a PUL is to work at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory with engineers and other instrument teams to upload the activity commands to CheMin.

While my primary research is in rare earth element minerals rather than Mars, this experience has been and continues to be infinitely fascinating.

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