John Grotzinger ’79, Sc.D. ’13, a project scientist and former mission leader for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, returns to the HWS campus on Tuesday to deliver a public lecture on the results of the Curiosity Rover’s work on the Red Planet, as well as a preview of the new site chosen for the landing of the next Mars mission, Mars 2020.
Grotzinger’s lecture, “Missions to Mars: Results, Updates and Prospects,” will begin Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 7 p.m. in the Sanford Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library.
The talk is free and open to the public; it will be livestreamed. Grotzinger’s visit to campus is sponsored by the HWS Geoscience Department.
Currently the Fletcher Jones Professor of Geology and the Ted and Ginger Jenkins Leadership Chair in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at the California Institute of Technology, Grotzinger is an eminent sedimentologist and stratigrapher with wide-ranging interests in sedimentary processes, geobiology and Earth’s early history. He guided the team that landed Curiosity, discovering evidence of an ancient Martian streambed and making history when he confirmed the presence of an environment that could have supported microbial life.
Grotzinger has been elected into the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors that can be accorded a U.S. scientist, and is the recipient of a multitude of other awards, including the National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award, the Fred Donath Medal from the Geological Society of America, the Henno Martin Medal from the Geological Society of Namibia and the Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal by the National Academy of Sciences. He was the recipient of the 2011 Laurence L. Sloss Award from the Geological Society of America for his original and lasting contributions to three areas of sedimentary geology.
In 2003, Grotzinger was one of only 28 scientists chosen by NASA to participate in the Mars Exploration Rover Mission, during which he performed an analysis of Martian sediments and sedimentary rocks and assessed the role of liquid water in shaping Martian landforms. He served as a member of both the geology and long term planning groups for the Mars Exploration Rover mission. As a member of the geology group, he worked on analysis of image data trying to look for distinct textures and fabrics in the soil and rocks which might suggest water as an agent in their formation. As a member and leader of the long term planning group, he helped develop a context for discussion of science strategies that extend beyond day-to-day discoveries.
At Hobart, Grotzinger received a bachelor’s degree in geosciences, was a member of Theta Delta Chi and played lacrosse. He and went on to earn an M.S. from the University of Montana and a Ph.D. from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He completed his post-doctoral work at Columbia University. On May 19, 2013, Hobart and William Smith Colleges presented him with an honorary Doctor of Science during Commencement. He also gave the 2018 Commencement Address.