PLS - Ken Williford (JPL)
Title: First Results from the Mars 2020 Rover
Bio: In addition to serving as the Mars 2020 Deputy PS, Ken is the director of the JPL Astrobiogeochemistry Laboratory(abcLab). Research in the abcLab is broadly concerned with tracing the flow of biologically important elements (e.g. C, H, O, N, S) through Earth systems. To do this, we use the tools of "biogeochemistry" - uncovering the chemical traces of life (bio) preserved in Earth materials (geo) - within the context of astrobiology (the search for life on other planets). In recent years, Williford has focused on developing analytical techniques to search for signs of life and environment in some of the oldest rocks on Earth. Fossils are very rare in these rocks, and those that do exist are almost always microscopic. In the abcLab at JPL, Ken studies the biogeochemistry of ancient Earth rocks in part to understand how we can apply similar techniques to the search for evidence of life on other planets - in rocks returned to Earth from the surface of Mars, for example.
About the Series
The MIT Planetary Lunch Seminar [PLS], formerly PICS, is a weekly seminar series organized within the EAPS department. Colloquia topics span the range of research interests of the department's planetary sciences research program. The seminars usually take place on Tuesdays from 12-1:30 pm in 54-517 unless otherwise noted (term-time only). Speakers include members of the MIT community and visitors. Talks are intended to appeal to graduate students, postdocs, research scientists, and faculty with a background in planetary science. A light lunch is provided.