Research Opportunities

A selection of current research opportunities for prospective graduate students is listed here. If the topic or potential advisor you are seeking is not listed here, please contact the faculty member directly for information regarding available projects and positions.

Astrobiology Cosmochemistry and Planetary Materials

Planet-Forming disks and Exoplanets Planetary Atmospheres 

Planetary Geophysics Titan & Outer Solar System



Assistant Professor Betul Kacar  (PG4gdWVycz0iem52eWdiOm9yZ2h5QHJ6bnZ5Lm5ldm1iYW4ucnFoIj5vcmdoeUByem52eS5uZXZtYmFuLnJxaDwvbj4=)

Seeking a graduate student to explore whether the arrangement of biological molecule interactions templated upon a prebiotic arrangement of geochemically produced molecules. Specifically, we will explore how did a chemical organization evolve into a (functional) biological network though chemical and biological methodologies. Other projects include understanding how pervasive are recognizable biosignatures, as well as the possible proto-enzymatic functionality given a primordial (or otherwise alternative) amino acid repertoire. This project is funded. 

Cosmochemistry and Planetary Materials

Assistant Professor Pierre Haenecour (PG4gdWVycz0iem52eWdiOmN2cmVlckB5Y3kubmV2bWJhbi5ycWgiPmN2cmVlckB5Y3kubmV2bWJhbi5ycWg8L24+)

I have a graduate student position available to work with me in the Planetary Material Research Group on the in-situ coordinated analysis (e.g., NanoSIMS, FIB-SEM, TEM) of isotopic anomalies associated with circumstellar grains and organic matter in micrometeorites and interplanetary dust particles. The project will also contribute to the development of analytical protocols for the analysis of the isotopic and elemental compositions of asteroid materials that will be returned by the NASA OSIRIS-REx and JAXA Hayabusa II missions.

Planet-Forming Disks and Exoplanets

Associate Professor Ilaria Pascucci (PG4gdWVycz0iem52eWdiOmNuZnBocHB2QHljeS5uZXZtYmFuLnJxaCI+Y25mcGhwcHZAeWN5Lm5ldm1iYW4ucnFoPC9uPg==)

I have two graduate student positions available in my group. One position is supported by NASA/ADAP for a project that builds on the Kepler exoplanet discoveries and will assess, from a statistical point of view, which nearby stars are most likely to host an ExoEarth. The other project is funded by NASA/XRP and builds on a recent ALMA proposal that explores the use of a new gas tracer to estimate the gas-to-dust mass ratio, and ultimately gas masses, of planet-forming disks. Students/Postdocs that join my group with external funding are welcome to pursue the research topic of their choice. See my website ( for the full extent of research activities carried out in the group.

Planetary Atmospheres

Professor Roger Yelle (PG4gdWVycz0iem52eWdiOmxyeXlyQHljeS5uZXZtYmFuLnJxaCI+bHJ5eXJAeWN5Lm5ldm1iYW4ucnFoPC9uPg==)

Mars Waves and GCM Development: The goal of this project is to study the propagation of waves in the Martian atmosphere and their effect on the atmospheric structure and mean circulation.  We will examine in detail the generation of waves by condensation of CO2 in the atmosphere.  The student will work with a team consisting of Professor Yelle's groups at LPL, and Drs. Mark Richardson and Yuan Lian of Aeolis Research.  The research is supported by a recently awarded grant from NASA’s Solar Systems Workings (SSW) program.  In addition to learning about Mars, the student will acquire skills in numerical modeling including the development and operation of general circulation models (GCMs).  

Planetary Geophysics

Associate Professor Isamu Matsuyama (PG4gdWVycz0iem52eWdiOnZmbkB5Y3kubmV2bWJhbi5ycWgiPnZmbkB5Y3kubmV2bWJhbi5ycWg8L24+)

Dynamic tides in the subsurface oceans of icy satellites: The main goal is to advance our understanding of: 1) the observable consequences of dynamic ocean tides in satellites; 2) their effect on tidal energy dissipation; and 3) their long-term effects on orbit evolution. I am looking for people with a strong physics background. This project is supported by a grant from the NASA Solar System Workings program. 

Early dynamical evolution of the Moon with a subsurface magma ocean: The main goal is to advance our understanding of the early evolution of the Earth-Moon system, during the first few tens of Myr of solar system history, when the Moon likely possessed a global magma ocean and experienced large obliquity variations during Cassini state transitions. I am looking for people with a strong physics background. This project is supported by a grant from the NASA Emerging Worlds program.  

Associate Professor Jeffrey Andrews-Hanna (PG4gdWVycz0iem52eWdiOndwbnVuYWFuQHljeS5uZXZtYmFuLnJxaCI+d3BudW5hYW5AeWN5Lm5ldm1iYW4ucnFoPC9uPg==)

One of the most surprising observations of the New Horizons flyby of the Pluto system was the giant Sputnik impact basin.  This basin is unlike anything else in the outer solar system.  I am looking for a graduate student to do a geophysical analysis of the subsurface structure and evolution of this basin.  This project will involve both data analysis and modeling work.  The student will be funded by a grant from the New Frontiers Data Analysis Program.

Titan & Outer Solar System

Professor Caitlin Griffith  (PG4gdWVycz0iem52eWdiOnRldnNzdmd1QHljeS5uZXZtYmFuLnJxaCI+dGV2c3N2Z3VAeWN5Lm5ldm1iYW4ucnFoPC9uPg==)

I have an opening in my group to work on ground-based observations of Titan's surface and atmosphere. The student will reduce KECK data for extended objects, conduct radiative transfer analyses of near-IR data and, and conduct observations at KECK. The goal is to understand the source of Titan's methane and probe the dynamics of Titan's storms. This project is funded by NASA.