Dr. Walter Kiefer Named as the New Associate Director of the LPI

August 30, 2021

Dr. Walter Kiefer Named as the New Associate Director of the LPI

The Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Walter Kiefer as the associate director of the LPI, effective August 24, 2021. Kiefer will fill the role previously held by Dr. Allan Treiman, who served as associate director since November 2016.

As associate director, Kiefer will work closely with LPI scientists as a supervisor and mentor, provide management support for the director, continue to provide scientific oversight for the annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, assist with planning of new research and initiatives, and lead projects that support LPI internal and external goals.

“Walter brings much-needed skills in planetary science, mentoring, and management to LPI when we are actively preparing for future missions and research,” says LPI Director Dr. Lisa Gaddis. “With his help, I am confident that we will continue our excellent program of research and our service to NASA and the planetary science community.”

Kiefer’s research focuses on the internal structure and evolution of the terrestrial planets and large icy satellites. One major area of interest is the thermal evolution of planets. His studies of mantle convection and tectonic features on Venus focus on understanding its apparent evolution from an Earth-like body with mobile lid convection in the past to a planet with a mostly stagnant surface at present, a transition which was likely caused by loss of liquid surface water. Other projects include studies of core formation and the early thermal evolution of asteroid 4 Vesta, modeling mantle plume volcanism on Mars, and simulations of mantle convection on Io driven by tidal heating.

Kiefer is a Co-Investigator for the Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble Gases, Chemistry, and Imaging (DAVINCI) mission, which will explore Venus in the late 2020s as part of NASA’s Discovery Program. He will lead studies of the rate of volcanic outgassing on Venus using mass spectrometer data and studies of the tectonics of the Alpha Regio landing site using descent imaging. In addition, he was a member of the Science Study Team that defined EnVision, a joint European Space Agency/NASA orbital remote sensing mission to Venus. Kiefer is also a Co-Investigator on the Gravity and Radio Science team for the Europa Clipper mission, focusing on determining local and regional structure in Europa’s ice shell. He was previously a member of the science team for NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, which used high-resolution mapping of the Moon’s gravity field to determine the structure of the Moon’s crust and deep interior.

Treiman will remain at the LPI as a principal scientist. “Allan has made many scientific contributions to the LPI and we have benefitted greatly from his expert guidance and stewardship over the past few years. As he returns to his own very active and successful program of research, he remains an important contributor to our program,” notes Gaddis.

Treiman played a key role in interfacing with the local scientific community by leading the Johnson Space Center (JSC)/LPI Joint Working Group, which includes organizing astromaterials sample training to enhance the planetary community’s understanding, use, and access to the planetary materials curated at NASA JSC.

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