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Dr. Patricia Craig

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Postdoctoral Research Scientist

Currently resides in SC
pcraig [at]
Areas of Expertise
Targets: Mars
Disciplines/Techniques: Astrobiology, Education/Public Outreach (EPO), Field Work, Geology, Mineralogy, Scanning Electron Microscopy, Spectroscopy, X-ray spectroscopy
Missions: MSL
Mission Roles: Data validation, Instrument operations, Science operations
Instruments: FTIR, X-ray spectrometers

Research Interests

Areas of research that I find most interesting involve the geochemical evolution of planetary surfaces. My current work focuses on the formation and alteration of clay minerals on Mars.

In collaboration with researchers in the ARES Lab at NASA Johnson Space Center, I investigate the stability of clay minerals under a variety of conditions. This data helps us better constrain the conditions at the time of formation and subsequent alteration of these minerals, allowing us to reconstruct the geologic and aqueous history of the planet.

I am also a collaborator on the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument on the Mars Science Lab Curiosity rover. CheMin is the first X-ray diffractometer to be sent to and operate on another planet and it has been sending us valuable information on the mineralogy of Gale Crater, Mars. As part of the team, I prepare command sequences for the instrument, monitor its health on a regular basis, and help in analyzing and interpreting the data it sends back to Earth.

Additionally, I’ve begun a study that seeks to identify areas on Mars that were/are most conducive to the existence of life. Working with biologists at the University of Arkansas, our experiments have shown that methane-producing microbes, called methanongens, can grow and survive on certain clay minerals that have been identified on Mars. If methanogens are in fact still surviving on Mars, they could be responsible for the methane recently observed in the martian atmosphere.

Professional History

2017 – Present            Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, AZ

2015 – 2017                Postdoctoral Fellow, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, TX

2012 – 2015                NASA Postdoctoral Researcher, Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX

2008 – 2012                Graduate Research and Teaching Assistant, University of Arkansas

Honors and Awards

2015 – 2017                Postdoctoral Fellowship, Lunar and Planetary Institute

2012 – 2015                NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellowship

2011                           Arkansas Space Grant Consortium, #UAF2140 YR 21

2008                           Best in Show, Senior Showcase in the College of Science, FIT

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