My research is focused on understanding the formation and evolution of solar system planets and planetary satellites, with an emphasis on the connections between rotational dynamics, orbital dynamics, and interior structure. Seismic constraints on interior structure are only available for the Earth and the Moon. For other planetary bodies, we must look for clues in other observations. The response of planetary bodies to rotational and orbital changes depends on their interior structure and it generates unique shape, gravity, and tectonic patterns. I seek to constrain the interior structure of planetary bodies by comparing observations of these patterns with theoretical model predictions.
As a participating scientist with NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, I am constraining the deep interior structure of the Moon using gravity, topography, and moment of inertia observations. Icy satellites of the outer solar system have emerged as potential habitable worlds due to the presence of subsurface oceans. The interior satellite structure determines the magnitude of tidal heating (the conversion of deformational energy into internal energy under the action of tides), which is a dominant long-term energy source for icy satellites. I am developing tidal heating models to investigate the long-term evolution and survivability of subsurface oceans in icy satellites.