Melissa A. Morris

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Melissa A. Morris holding a PetSmart graduation diploma.

Melissa Morris is a Program Scientist in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters. She leads the Emerging Worlds (EW) Program, the Early Career Award and Fellowship Programs, and serves as Deputy Program Scientist for the OSIRIS-REx mission, NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission.  She also serves on the caucus for the OSIRIS-REx Participating Scientist Program, the Laboratory Analysis of Returned Samples (LARS) Program, the DART Participating Scientist (DART-PSP) Program, and the New Frontiers Data Analysis (NFDAP) program.

Before working with NASA, Melissa was an associate professor at the State University of New York, (SUNY, Cortland) after previously serving as the Assistant Director of the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University (ASU).  She has taught astronomy, planetary science, meteoritics/cosmochemistry, and exploration at both SUNY and ASU.  Her areas of research have included star and planet formation, meteoritics, and astrobiology, as well as asteroid hazards/mining.  She has focused mainly on using astrophysical modeling, in conjunction with observations (both astronomical and meteoritical), to determine conditions during the formation of planetary systems (including the Solar System).  Melissa has also used data on planetary materials and astronomical spectra to search for signs of aqueous alteration of solids in extrasolar protoplanetary disks and exotic exoplanets.  She has been involved in research to determine the material properties of planetary materials, to use in conjunction with astrophysical modeling, to understand the composition of Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and targets of sample return missions and/or targets of interest for In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU).

Melissa earned a bachelor’s degree in physics, with a minor in astronomy, at Missouri State University, where she was also a NASA Space Grant Consortium intern, observing yellow supergiants and eclipsing binary stars.  She earned a master’s degree in physics and a doctorate in astrophysics at Arizona State University (ASU).  Her master’s thesis involved the search for indirect signs of water in extrasolar planetary systems, and her PhD thesis research focused on the formation of early Solar System materials (chondrules).  After graduate school, Melissa served as a visiting professor at Missouri State University, and an Exploration Postdoctoral Fellow, faculty research associate, and associate research professor at ASU.

Melissa is an avid hiker, biker, and animal lover who enjoys spending time in nature, as well as making music and art (drawing/painting).

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