NASA Names WWU’s Melissa Rice a ‘Participating Scientist’ on Mars’ Curiosity Rover Team

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Western Washington University Assistant Professor of Geology Melissa Rice has been named by NASA as a Participating Scientist on the Mars Curiosity Rover science team.

Rice has been a member of both the Curiosity and Opportunity rover teams for years, but being named a Participating Scientist is a grant-funded position that will also allow for far more collaboration between the Curiosity team and Rice’s undergraduate students, as well as paying for the stipend and tuition for two graduate students to work on the project.

The grant will also allow Rice’s students to attend rover team meetings and training sessions at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California and to present their research results at national conferences such as the Geological Society of America annual meeting.

“I’ll be funded to participate in the continuing day-to-day operations of the rover, and my students will be trained to perform basic operational roles as well, which is really exciting,” she said. “It’s going to be great experience for them.”

The Curiosity team is guiding their rover across the surface of the Red Planet in search of clues to Mars’ past, examining the geology of the planet for ancient rivers and lakes that may have, billions of years ago, held life.

Rice earned her bachelor’s degree in Astrophysics from Wellesley College and her doctorate in Astrophysics from Cornell University, after which she completed postdoctoral work on the rovers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This is her second year at Western.

For more on Rice’s work with the Curiosity rover, click here or go to