Kathleen Vander Kaaden

Kathleen Vander Kaaden

Kathleen Vander Kaaden (she/her) is a Program Scientist in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters. She leads the Emerging Worlds (EW) program which supports research related to the formation and early evolution of our solar system. She is the Co-Deputy of the Solar Systems Working (SSW) Program, cognizant civil servant for the Lunar Data Analysis Program (LDAP), and is also involved with the Apollo Next Generation Sample Analysis (ANGSA), Planetary Science Enabling Facilities (PSEF), and Early Career Award (ECA) programs. In addition to her R&A responsibilities, Kathleen is the Chief Scientist for Astromaterials Curation within the Science Mission Directorate and works closely with the Astromaterials Acquisition and Curation Office at Johnson Space Center as well as any mission that will ultimately bring extraterrestrial materials to Earth. Click here to learn more about NASA’s requirements and procedures for the curation of astromaterials.

Kathleen is extremely passionate about inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility as well as educating the next generation of STEM leaders. She is a member of the SMD IDEA Inclusive Culture and Accessibility working group, the PSD IDEA team, and the co-liaison for the Cross-AG EDI Working Group. Kathleen also participates in outreach events across the globe, both virtually and in person, in an effort to educate students about opportunities in STEM.

Previously, Kathleen worked for Jacobs as a contractor at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC). She was the Section Manager for the Basic and Applied Research Team, the Project Manager for the team prior to that, and the contractor Lab Manager for Experimental Petrology at JSC. Her scientific research interests broadly lie in the area of planetary science with an emphasis on geochemistry and experimental petrology. The bulk of her research has been experimentally investigating the impact of low oxygen fugacity on elemental affinity and the role it plays in planetary differentiation, magma density, and the resurfacing of planetary bodies like Mercury, the Moon, and reduced meteorite parent bodies.

Kathleen earned her Bachelor’s degree in Geological Sciences with minors in Mathematics and Elementary Education from Salem State University and her Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Earth & Planetary Science at the University of New Mexico. Kathleen enjoys traveling and going on road trip adventures, especially with her partner Laura and puppy Mica.

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