Dr. Rosaly M. C. Lopes is a Senior Research Scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she is also Deputy Manager for Planetary Science. Dr. Lopes was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she grew up by the famous Ipanema Beach. She moved to London,England, to study astronomy at the University of London, from where she graduated in 1978. For her doctoral studies, she specialized in planetary geology and volcanology and completed her Ph. D. in Planetary Science in 1986. Her major research interests are in planetary and terrestrial geology and volcanology. During her Ph.D. she traveled extensively to active volcanoes, particularly Mount Etna in Sicily, and became a member of the U.K.’s Volcanic Eruption Surveillance Team. Dr. Lopes joined JPL as National Research Council Fellow in 1989 and, in 1991, became a member of the Galileo Flight Project, a mission to Jupiter. She was responsible for observations of Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io from 1996 to 2001, using Galileo’s Near-infrared mapping spectrometer. During this exciting period of her career, she discovered 71 active volcanoes on Io, for which she was honored in the 2006 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records as the discoverer of the most active volcanoes anywhere!
Dr. Lopes is currently a member of the Cassini Flight Project, with the role of Investigation Scientist on the Cassini Titan Radar Mapper Team. She is studying the geology of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, particularly its strange ice volcanoes. In 2006, she was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for her contributions to the studies of volcanism on Earth and the planets.
She is also a member of the International Astronomical Union, the American Geophysical Society, and Fellow of the Explorers Club and of the Royal Geographical Society. She chairs the Outer Planets Task Group of the International Astronomical Union’s working group for planetary system nomenclature, and is therefore responsible for overseeing the naming of features on the outer planets and satellites.
Dr. Lopes has written nearly one hundred research papers, articles, book chapters and encyclopedia entries. In addition to her science work, she is a strong supporter of education, diversity, and outreach, nationally and internationally. She has given numerous public lectures in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia. She has been active in the media, giving hundreds of interviews, and has been featured on sixteen TV documentaries, including for National Geographic, Discovery, Science, and History channels.
She is co-editor of “Modeling Volcanic Processes” (Cambridge University Press, in production). In 2005, Dr. Lopes won the prestigious American Astronomical Society’s Carl Sagan medal for excellence in communicating science to the public. Among her other awards are the Wings Women of Discovery award (2009), the NASA Exceptional Service Medal (2007), the Women at Work Medal of Excellence (2006), the Latinas in Science medal (1991), and the GEMS TV Woman of the Year in Science and Technology Award (1997).
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I had the opportunity to ask Dr. Lopes a few questions recently:
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in volcanology?
The Volcano Adventure Guide
Go for it! There are many different types of careers you can have. You don’t need to be adventurous and like field work, you can be a modeler, but I think that anyone, no matter what they do, should try to experience a volcanic eruption at least once in their life. This is why I wrote “The Volcano Adventure Guide”.