Vice President (2023-2024): Br. Guy Consolmagno (Director, Vatican Observatory, Vatican City State)


Brief Biography:

My own passion for meteorites was born in my undergraduate studies at MIT. I remember actually leaping out of bed every Tuesday and Thursday with excitement, knowing that I would have a class in meteorites from the charismatic John Lewis.

At my first MetSoc, in 1976 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, I presented work on the evolution of basaltic achondrites that was directed by my PhD advisor at the University of Arizona, the late Mike Drake, himself a one-time MetSoc president. After my talk, I was met in the hallway by the very imposing figure of Jerry Wasserburg. “That was a fine talk,” he told me. I preened. Then he continued, “But tell me… do you actually believe it?” It was a great question from a great scientist, and emblematic of what made MetSoc meetings great.

When I switched my interest to planetary magnetism, writing a thesis with Randy Jokipii, I continued to rely on meteoritic data for both the nature of the dust that would interact with the magnetic fields and the possible effects of Al-26 decay in ionizing the surrounding nebula. Analyzing FUN anomaly data as a post-doc let my advisor Al Cameron to theorize a new kind of nucleosynthetic process for Calcium. And when I did theoretical models for icy moon evolution I assumed that the rocky components of those moons would be meteoritical.

In the mid 1980s I took a break from scientific research, first to teach with the US Peace Corps in Kenya and at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania (not far from Bethlehem), then to go through my requisite studies upon entering the Jesuit order. But once I was assigned to the Vatican Observatory in Rome, I was given a most welcome and challenging assignment. My boss, the observatory director George Coyne, looked me in the eye and said: “do good science.” Period. The science in question was up to me.

More moon models? More magnetism? But I discovered that the Vatican Observatory had a collection of over a thousand meteorite samples. I recalled how much I had wished that someone had measured their physical properties for values that I could have used in my models. Mostly, though, I recalled how much I enjoyed going to MetSoc meetings. That’s where I found the friends who would be interested in the stuff I had to present. That’s why I chose to concentrate my research on meteorites.

Since then, my colleagues and I have measured thousands of meteorites around the world for density, porosity, magnetic susceptibility, conductivity, heat capacity, and now even thermal expansion. Much to our delight, the data we’ve provided have helped the field understand the nature of asteroids and how they’ve evolved over time. I took part in ANSMET in 1996, hosted a MetSoc meeting in Rome in 2001, served on the MetSoc council for 2003-2006, and was named a Fellow of the Society in 2008. I was honored to give the Barringer Lecture at the MetSoc meeting in Moscow in 2018.

Meanwhile, for my sins, Pope Francis appointed me director of the Vatican Observatory in 2015; my term will expire in 2025. That has meant cutting back on a lot of my scientific activity, including turning over the curation of the meteorite collection to my colleague and friend Bob Macke. Nonetheless, MetSoc is the one meeting I still do my best to try to attend every year.

To be able to serve the Meteoritical Society, a society that has always been close to my heart, would be a tremendous honor. I thank you for this nomination, and I look forward to being of service to our Society and its members.

Statement of Priorities for the Meteoritical Society:

Three traits of the Meteoritical Society have always struck me. The first is its international nature; the second, its close ties to the amateur and collector community; and the third, its intimate and friendly atmosphere.

One of the strengths of meteoritics as a field has been that it is relatively small and informal. There are not large sums of money involved in what we do, we don’t depend on billion dollar spacecraft missions, and so there is not the same sort of intense competition for resources (or glory) that leads to tensions in other fields.

But we are now entering a time when our science is very much of interest to those who run spacecraft missions — not only sample missions, but landing missions where knowledge of the surface properties is essential to the success of the mission. And looming on the horizon is the commercial exploitation of space material which inevitably will change the way that our field is understood, and funded.

The more immediate concerns for the Society are the nature of future MetSoc meetings in the light of the uncertainties surrounding Covid and whatever future variants may affect our ability to travel and meet face to face. And of course we face the never-ending pressure on the funding for our science, modest as it may be compared to other fields. These are all tied to the looming ecological situation, with effects ranging from new pandemics to political crises that may have a large impact on the kind of science we can do and where we can do it.

The challenge thus for us will be to address these changes, immediate and long term, without losing the intimate and friendly character of our Society and its ability to welcome new contributors, both students and non-professionals, from around the world.

In that regard it is worth remembering our history. The Meteoritical Society was founded during the Great Depression and in its earliest years endured the disruption of a World War. But even in spite of that, we were able to maintain and extend our international nature, more even than our colleagues in the other astronomical sciences. And since then, the very nature of collecting meteoritical samples has kept us aware, and sensitive to, the larger international community and the need for close cooperation with those who find our samples and bring them to our attention.

What remains is to make sure that we never lose the welcoming nature of our gatherings, especially our ability to engage in lively and sometimes spirited arguments on points of science with the courage that comes from knowing that, at the end of the day, we are all kindred spirits, passionate about the same wonderful bits of space that we get to hold in our hands.


Secretary 2023: Jutta Zipfel

Jutta Zipfel is curator of the Max-Planck-Institut meteorite collection which is on permanent loan at the Senckenberg Naturmuseum and Forschungsinstitut in Frankfurt, Germany. She also has a teaching assignment for cosmochemistry at the Goethe University in Frankfurt. Her scientific interest is directed towards chemical and mineralogical composition of the most primitive meteorites in the solar system, the carbonaceous chondrites. A major focus of her research is the composition and structure of metal phases in these meteorites. She is also interested in primitive achondrites and differentiation processes in asteroids. Jutta Zipfel is a fellow of the Meteoritical Society and served on council from 2005 to 2008. She was member and later chair of the Nomenclature Committee between 2000 and 2008. In addition, she was a member of various other committees of the Meteoritical Society. She has a longstanding commitment to the Meteoritical Society and an extensive record of contributions to the field of meteoritics.


Councilors nominated for terms beginning 2023:


Alvaro P. Crósta (1st term)

Alvaro P. Crósta is a Full Professor at the Geosciences Institute, State University of Campinas, in Brazil. His research areas are geological remote sensing and impact cratering, being involved in the confirmation and geological characterization of the impact origin of all currently known impact structures in Brazil. Lately, he has been also involved in the geochemical analysis and characterization of Brazilian iron meteorites. He is a Full Member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Sciences of São Paulo state. Besides his teaching and research duties, he has been extensively involved in academic administration, as a director of his Institute, Unicamp’s Pro-rector of Development and, more recently, Unicamp’s Vice-rector. He has also been involved in the Geosciences boards of the main Brazilian federal funding agencies, such as the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) and the National Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES).


Marina Ivanova (1st term)

Marina Ivanova is a senior scientist in the Laboratory of Meteoritics at Moscow's Vernadsky Institute and visiting scientist at the Smithsonian Institution for many years. Her research focuses on investigation of metal-rich carbonaceous chondrites, CH- and CB-like, refractory inclusions, and chondrules; metamorphosed CM-like carbonaceous chondrites; ordinary chondrites, and achondrites, Martian and lunar meteorites. A part of her work has focused on laboratory experiments on investigation of oxygen isotopic compositions to understand exchange and fractionation during hydration-dehydration processes of carbonaceous chondrites and on theoretical modelling and experiment of evaporation process of CAIs-like melts to understand genetic relations between refractory material in the early Solar System. In 2018, she was one of the organizers of the 81st Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society held in Moscow.


Byeon-Gak Choi (1st term)

Byeon-Gak Choi is a Professor at the Department of Earth Science Education, Seoul National University, in South Korea. His research focuses on the petrologic characteristics and oxygen (and a few other) isotopic compositions on mineral phases mostly in chondritic meteorites. His major research tool is secondary ion mass spectrometry. In the last years he has developed or improved several analytical methods using secondary ion mass spectrometers in South Korea, including CAMECA 6-f, NanoSIMS 50, SHRIMP-IIe, and CAMECA 1300 for oxygen isotopes, Al-Mg isotopes, and trace element composition.


Elena Dobrică (2nd term)

Elena Dobrică is an assistant researcher at the Hawai'i Institute for Geophysics and Planetology at the University of Hawai'i, Manoa, USA. She is the director of the Advanced Electron Microscopy Center. Her research focuses on the most pristine materials formed in the early solar system and the secondary processes (thermal and shock metamorphism and aqueous alteration) that modify them. A part of her work focuses on laboratory experiments designed to constrain the conditions that were active during the earliest stages of parent body evolution. She serves as the University of Hawai'i at Manoa's Representative to Universities Space Research Association (USRA).


Henner Busemann (2nd term)

Henner Busemann is a physicist and senior scientist at the Institute of Geochemistry and Petrology of ETH Zurich. He runs a laboratory mainly focused on Noble Gas Cosmo- and Geochemistry. His research interests cover the analysis of trapped, radiogenic and cosmogenic noble gases in meteorites, lunar and cometary samples. In particular, he aims at a better understanding of the volatiles in the planetary bodies in the solar system, their dependence on parent body processing, the analysis of returned asteroidal and cometary samples and newly found meteorites. He serves at NASA's CAPTEM Cosmic Dust Subcommittee.


Sarah Crowther (2nd term)

Sarah Crowther is a Research Fellow in the Isotope Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry Group in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at The University of Manchester, UK. Her research focuses on using the RELAX and RIMSKI mass spectrometers to analyze xenon and krypton isotope ratios in a range of extra-terrestrial materials. A large part of her work focuses on iodine-xenon dating meteorites to unravel the thermal and impact histories of their parent asteroids. Sarah is also actively involved in many public engagement and outreach activities, and was awarded the 2019 Annie Maunder medal for public engagement by the Royal Astronomical Society in recognition of her work.

Ann Nguyen (2nd term)

Ann Nguyen is a research scientist within the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Directorate at NASA Johnson Space Center, USA. Her research focuses on high-spatial resolution isotopic and mineral characterization of presolar silicate grains and early solar system condensates identified in primitive meteorites, interplanetary dust particles, and comet Wild2 samples returned by NASA's Stardust mission. These studies increase our understanding of the origins, formation conditions, and alteration histories of these primitive materials.

Denton Ebel (2nd term)

Denton Ebel is curator of meteorites at the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, The American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA. His research is modeling how gas, solid, and melt phases interact at high temperatures and low pressures, to understand the formation of the first solids, and molten (liquid) rock droplets in the solar system, which eventually led to the accretion of the planets. Denton organized the 2010 Meteoritical Society Annual Meeting in New York. He is a member of the Audit Committee.