2020-2021 College of Science Alumna of the Year
For her outstanding contributions to planetary science, the Arizona Alumni Association has named LPL alumna Dr. Elizabeth "Zibi" Turtle the 2020-2021 Alumna of the Year for the College of Science. Zibi will be recognized at the November 4th, 2021 Alumni of the Year Awards Ceremony.
Zibi earned her doctorate from LPL in 1998. Her dissertation research combined remote-sensing observations and geophysical modeling of impact craters to understand the cratering process and what craters can tell us about the surfaces and interiors of the planets and moons on which they are formed.
After working on the Galileo, Cassini, and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter missions while at UA, she led a team that successfully proposed the Europa Imaging System (known as EIS) for NASA's Europa Clipper mission, which is scheduled to launch in 2024 to explore the habitability of this ice-covered, ocean world moon of Jupiter.
In 2019, NASA selected Dragonfly, led by Zibi as Principal Investigator, as its next New Frontiers mission. Dragonfly, which is scheduled to launch in 2027, is a robotic rotorcraft lander that will spend ~3 years exploring Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. Taking advantage of Titan's low gravity and dense atmosphere, Dragonfly will fly from place to place to make measurements that will helps us to understand the chemistry of this organic-rich, ocean world. Titan's chemical processes may be similar to what occurred on the early Earth before life developed here. Dragonfly is the fourth NASA New Frontiers mission and the first led by a woman.
In addition to her project leadership, Zibi has held several important and influential roles in the planetary science community. She has served on the leadership committee for the American Astronomical Society’s Division of Planetary Sciences, the steering committee of NASA’s Outer Planets Assessment Group, and the National Research Council’s Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science—the highest-level advisory group for NASA planetary science.