January 2, 2024 Nancy Chabot

Contributed by Jessica Barnes, recipient of the 2023 Nier Prize, awarded at the 2023 Meteoritical Society Meeting. Read the citation for the 2023 Nier Prize published in Meteoritics and Planetary Science.

Thank you very much to the Meteoritical Society for this special award. Thank you, Juliane, Dante, and the nomination supporters, for taking the time to nominate me it means more than I can say. It is an honor to receive this award in memory of Alfred Nier – the father of modern mass spectrometry – and to be named alongside such esteemed colleagues.

I have a lot more people to thank but before I do, I’d like to tell you a little about how I got here.

When I was in high school studying geography, I became fascinated by volcanoes and decided to go to university to study them and their societal impact. As an undergraduate student at St Andrews, I took geoscience only as a complementary subject. My first year of school was interesting but I really disliked my intro to geosciences course…until the residential fieldtrip at the end of my first year when I am looking at an outcrop in the rain in Thurso in northern Scotland and, I kid you not, I suddenly fell in love with rocks! I switched major and spent the rest of my undergraduate degree finding myself drawn to igneous and metamorphic petrology.

I knew after undergrad that I wanted to do a PhD and applied to ~6 programs focusing in terrestrial igneous and metamorphic topics. I was rejected from 4 and interviewed for two, was waitlisted and ultimately didn’t get any of them. I am here in large part because when I interviewed for a field-based PhD position at The Open University with Dr Mahesh Anand, he mentioned another project on Moon rocks he was seeking a student for. I was so nervous during my interview that I didn’t think much of it. When Mahesh called to tell me that I wouldn’t get an offer for the field project, I was gutted. But then Mahesh reminded me of the Moon rock project. He encouraged me to look at the advertisement and apply if I was interested. For context I had two, maybe three, planetary science lectures during my entire undergraduate degree so reading an advert for a position that would have me looking at rocks from the Moon using a really complicated looking set of analytical techniques it sounded like science fiction…so of course I applied, and the rest is history!

I found my passion applying ion and electron beams to solve long standing questions on other planets and worlds. I loved my time at the OU and am eternally grateful for the support, guidance and mentoring of Mahesh and my other advisors Ian Franchi and Sara Russell.

I am eternally grateful to Francis McCubbin for taking me under his wing as a postdoc at LPI and NASA JSC. Francis is an amazing colleague, a fierce campion of women in science (and everyone for that matter), and an even better friend. He really gave me the freedom to expand my research interests beyond the Moon to Mars and to asteroids. Francis encouraged me to apply to a job I didn’t feel qualified for and when I got offered it said, without reservation, you have to take it! We need more Francis’ in our community.

Now at the University of Arizona I am surrounded by great colleagues and am able to continue following water and other volatiles throughout the system to asteroids like Bennu and study those volcanoes I was so passionate about as a kid…just on other planets!

On my research journey I have been gifted with so many great mentors in addition to those already mentioned. Their support and advice, especially in when faced with difficult situations or decisions has been invaluable, so thank you to many of you including Monica Grady, Susanne Schwnezer, Amy Mainzer, Tom Zega, Tim Swindle, Ryan Ziegler, Harold Connelly, Dante Lauretta, and Tim McCoy. Thank you to Amanda Stadermann, Zoe Wilbur, lunn Jenn Ong, Nicole Kerrison, Roni Sims, and Kiana McFadden for trusting me with your education and training, and for being the best group of students anyone could ever hope for.

As an assistant professor I value the support, shared experience, collaborations, and craic (which is irish for good times) of my fellow early career colleagues. So, thank you to Juliane Gross, Pierre Haenecour, Michelle Thompson, Carolyn Crow, Kathleen Vander Kaaden, Timmons Erickson, Katie Joy, Jemma Davidson, Romain Tartese and many others…

And lastly, thank you to my husband Diego. You’ve been with me since before I loved rocks. For fifteen years you’ve supported me, encouraged me when I lacked confidence, cheered me on, and selflessly sacrificed closeness of family, your support network, and your career so that I could follow my dreams. This award is for you, I love you and thank you.

To close, thank you so very much for this award in honor of Alfred Nier. Many who worked with him described him as an amazing and enthusiastic scientist, someone who was extremely curious, easy to work with, always willing to receive others' input in his experiments, and never overlooked anyone. I strive to live up to this award in his name and his legacy.

Thank you.

Categories: Awards

Tags: Nier Prize