The Ken Kennedy Institute's June Member of the Month, Kirsten Siebach, is an Assistant Professor of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences. She researches "source-to-sink" sedimentary processes on Mars and early Earth to interpret the history of water and surface environments early in our solar system. She is currently a member of the Science and Operations Teams for the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity, and previously worked on the science and engineering teams for the Phoenix Lander and the two Mars Exploration Rovers.
Kirsten completed her Ph.D. in Geology at Caltech with Professor John Grotzinger with a dissertation titled "Formation and Diagenesis of Sedimentary Rocks in Gale Crater, Mars", and then did postdoctoral research in geochemistry of Martian sediments with Professor Scott McLennan at Stony Brook University. Prior to Caltech, she attended Washington University in St. Louis.
What is your favorite book?
That's a hard question! Among books I read this year, I particularly enjoyed The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre. Long-term, I reread F. Scott Fitzgerald's short stories and The Great Gatsby every few years.
How do you explain your research in one sentence?
I study the sedimentary rock record of Mars to learn what the landscape and climate were like billions of years ago, and compare ancient Mars to ancient Earth to understand both planets better.
What is your favorite aspect of your research?
I see ancient Mars as a puzzle and my favorite moments are when we get enough observations from the Mars rovers to piece together part of the story of what was happening. I also really love science communication and sharing the amazing pictures and data from Mars with students and the public.
What challenges do you see in your research that you didn't expect?
I love being involved in the process of planning the daily rover observations with an international team of scientists who are committed to learning as much as we can with each day on Mars, but I will also admit that working with huge interdisciplinary and international teams comes with a lot of challenges! Communication is critical, and even if we frequently work remotely, I very much look forward to meeting with our operations team in person again.
What is a favorite experience with the Ken Kennedy Institute?
I really enjoyed a “lightning talk” Ken Kennedy Institute event last February- it was great to be able to meet with faculty from across the University and see how our research is connected.