SESE Exploration Postdoctoral Fellows

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Program overview

The mission of the Exploration Fellowships is to foster a leading, interdisciplinary postdoctoral fellowship program in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at ASU by attracting and supporting outstanding early-career scientists. Research areas within the School encompass theoretical and observational astronomy, cosmology, astrobiology, earth sciences, climate science, planetary sciences, exploration systems engineering, astronomical instrumentation, and science education.

The Exploration Fellowship program typically appoints up to two new Fellows per year for three-year fellowship durations. Fellows are selected through a competitive proposal process in the fall. Watch the SESE website for information about future fellowship opportunities.

All current Exploration Fellows receive:

  • Competitive annual stipend, health benefits, and support programs (postdoc resources and  guidelines at ASU)
  • Discretionary research funds
  • Personal career mentoring through association with two primary faculty mentors in the School of Earth and Space Exploration
  • Independence in research direction and activities

Since its inception in 2010, the Exploration Fellowship program has launched many Fellows to tenure-track or permanent research positions following their fellowships. Read about the research interests of current and former Fellows below.

2018 Exploration Fellowship in Earth and Space Science

The School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) at Arizona State University invites applications for a Postdoctoral Research Associate who will serve as an Exploration Fellow. The mission of the postdoctoral fellowship is to foster SESE’s interdisciplinary research program by attracting and supporting outstanding early-career scientists and engineers to pursue independent research in collaboration with faculty. Research areas within the School encompass theoretical and observational astrophysics, astrobiology, cosmology, earth and planetary science, instrumentation and systems engineering, and science education.

Anticipated start date for the position is July 2018. Incoming Fellows will receive an annual stipend of $63,000 with health benefits, plus $9,000 per year in discretionary research funds. A relocation allowance will be provided.

Interested candidates should contact two current faculty members in SESE to discuss potential collaborative research topics and determine whether they would agree to serve as an Exploration Fellow mentor. When a topic of mutual interest between the applicant and potential faculty mentors is identified, the applicant should submit a research proposal that includes: (1) a cover letter identifying the proposed research topic and the names of the two faculty mentors, (2) a current CV, (3) a research proposal not longer than five pages including figures and references, and (4) one paper that exemplifies the applicant’s research. Preference will be given to proposals that include interdisciplinary research spanning multiple research areas within SESE. Applicants should arrange for three letters of reference to be submitted separately.

Minimum Qualifications: Ph.D. in a relevant field by the time of appointment, but received no earlier than 2013. Applicants who received their Ph.D. prior to 2013 will not be considered.

Desired Qualifications: (1) a research proposal that demonstrates relevance, interdisciplinary merit, and potential impact of the proposed research on important questions in the field and to the mission of SESE, (2) a record of prior achievement and experience that shows the applicant’s potential to accomplish the proposed research objectives, and (3) evidence of strong verbal and written communication skills.

Application materials and any questions should be submitted by email to, addressed to the Exploration Fellowship Committee. Applications will be considered complete only when all materials described above are received. Review of complete applications will begin on November 15, 2017. If not filled, application review will continue until the search is closed. A background check is required for employment.

More information about SESE can be found at:

Arizona State University is a VEVRAA Federal Contractor and an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. All qualified applicants will be considered without regard to race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, protected veteran status, or any other basis protected by law.

Current Exploration Fellows (2017-2018 academic year)

Joseph O'Rourke (2017-2020)
Ph.D., 2017, Caltech

Implications of Core/Mantle Miscibility for the Accretion of Earth and the Evolution of Super-Earth Exoplanets

Charlene Estrada (2016-2019)
Ph.D. 2014, Johns Hopkins University

Characterization and Early Transformation of Microfossils at Mineral Surfaces through Deep Time

Cayman Unterborn,  (2016-2019)
Ph.D. 2016, The Ohio State University

From Star to Stone: Building an Internally Self-Consistent and Open-Source Terrestrial Planet Builder for Exploring Extrasolar Habitability
Karen Pardos Olsen (2015-2018)
Ph.D. 2015, University of Copenhagen
Interstellar Gas Conditions at High Redshift; Modeling [CII] and CO Line Emission

Former Exploration Fellows

Sarah Cichy (2014-2016)
Senior Research Scientist, University of Potsdam

Towards an Eruption-Geospeedometer: Diffusive Lithium Isotope Fractionation During Degassing and Crystal Growth
Harmony Colella (2014-2016)
Moore Foundation Fellow, UC-Berkeley and the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services
Investigation of Complex Fault Interactions with a Physics-Based Earthquake Simulator & Qualitative Assessment of Research Experiences for Undergraduates
Monica Palta (2014-2016)
Postdoctoral Scholar, Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University
Linking Riverine-Wetland Hydrogeomorphic and Biogeochemical Modeling in Urban and Natural Reaches of the Salt River
Adam Forte (2013-2015)
Postdoctoral Scholar, School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University

Bridging the Gap Between Geomorphology and Stratigraphy with Detrital Thermo- and Geochronology: The Influence of Surface Processes on the Detrital Zircon Record

Anand Thirumalai (2013-2015)
Assistant Professor, DigiPen Institute of Technology
Wolf-Rayet Stars - A Magneto-Dusty Demise
Anne Pommier (2012-2014)
Assistant Professor
Scripps Institute of Oceanography
Univ. California, San Diego
High Pressure Measurements of Silicate Melt Viscosity: Implications for Magma Ocean Dynamics and Time Evolution

Zhenya Zheng (2012-2014)
Research Professor
Shanghai Astronomical Observatory, CAS (China)

Co-evolution of Galaxies and Their Central Black Holes
Lauren Edgar (2012-2014)
Research Geologist
Astrogeology Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
Evaluating the Magnitude of Erosive Processes at Gale Crater, Mars
Ed Nissen (2011-2012)
Associate Professor
School of Earth and Ocean Sciences
University of Victoria
Rapid Collection of Topographic Data from UAVs: Applications for Earthquake Faulting and Earth Surface Processes
Jordan Okie (2011-2012)
Assistant Research Professor
School of Earth and Space Exploration

Arizona State University
Thermodynamic and Kinetic Constraints on Metabolic Diversity: Quantifying the Biogeochemical Niche Space of Life
Soma De (2010-2013)
Postdoctoral Fellow, Cosmology Research Group
Institute for Astronomy
ETH Zurich
SNe 1a Light Curves; Martian Atmosphere; Polarization spectra of cosmic microwave background
Briony Horgan (2010-2012)
Assistant Professor
Dept. of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
Purdue University
Non-Crystalline Weathering Products on Mars
Melissa Morris (2010-2011)
Assistant Professor
Dept. of Physics
State University of New York (SUNY)
Evaporation Histories of Chondrules (nebula shocks)
Loÿc Vanderkluysen (2010-2013)
Assistant Professor
Dept. of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science
Drexel University
Fluids and Dynamics LUSI Mud Volcano
Hua Wang (2010-2011)In-Situ Measurement of Shear Stress and Chemical Species in Hotsprings