LPI Welcomes New Postdoctoral Fellow Gabe Eggers
LPI: How did you become interested in planetary science?
GE: In my youth, I was (and remain) an avid reader. I read widely but gravitated to science fiction. While I enjoyed the narratives and characters featured in these stories, it was the worldbuilding — the process by which the author would construct their imagined setting — that interested me the most. From Frank Herbert’s Arrakis to Anne McCaffrey’s Pern, it was the planets of science fiction that enthralled me. I enjoyed exploring these envisioned worlds, especially as my scientific background grew and I was able to critique processes on those planets compared to what we observe on Earth. Eventually, this early interest in planetary science shifted from fictional worlds to real ones!
LPI: When did you know that you wanted to pursue this as a career?
GE: There isn’t an exact moment, but my first scientific conference was a milestone. I was fortunate to attend the 2012 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union as a senior to present my undergraduate thesis work. The opportunity to talk to established scientists about my work was thrilling (and nerve-wracking). Still, I’ll most remember the exposure to so much new science, such as the first results from the GRAIL gravity mission at the Moon, the early results from the Dawn mission at Vesta, and the announcement of the Mars 2020 rover! The excitement was infectious, and I knew I had to pursue planetary science as a career.
Planning a day of studying granitic plutons in Joshua Tree National Park.
LPI: Did you have a mentor or another person in your life who was influential to your decision or career?
GE: My first mentor in undergrad was the late (and great) Professor T.C. Onstott. He was my professor for an astrobiology course that included a week-long field trip to Yellowstone National Park to study extremophile habitats. When giving us feedback on our field notes after the trip, Professor Onstott was the first person to suggest I consider majoring in geoscience. That suggestion, as it turns out, was consequential! I began his class interested in an astronomical approach to astrobiology, but I left thinking about the subject from a geological perspective — a shift that has colored all my science since. I would later work in Onstott’s lab, which was my first experience with independent research. While our research interests later diverged, Professor Onstott remained a mentor and friend throughout my undergraduate career. T.C. recently passed away, a loss keenly felt by many.
An unexpected benefit of going into the field is getting to eat lunch in the most scenic locations.
LPI: What is the focus of your research?
GE: Broadly speaking, I am interested in magmatism and volcanological phenomena across the solar system via a variety of methods, including spectroscopy and geophysical modeling. At the LPI, my research will focus on the petrology, mineralogy, and spectroscopy of Venus analogue materials at high temperatures. I am particularly interested in how surface alteration of those analogue materials under venusian conditions informs proposed recent volcanism on the planet.
LPI: What do you most look forward to as it relates to planetary science over the next 10 years?
GE: Given my research interests, it’s the veritable fleet of spacecraft destined for Venus: NASA’s VERITAS and DAVINCI, ESA’s EnVision, and the proposed Venera-D from Roscosmos and Shrukayaan-1 from ISRO are all planned to launch within the decade. For all the talk about Venus being Earth’s “sister planet,” we know criminally little about it. The data from these missions stands to revolutionize our understanding of terrestrial planet evolution and proposed Earth-like exoplanets.
Pondering whether Santa Claus visits the astronauts on the International Space Station.
LPI: What would be your dream research trip?
GE: Part of my Ph.D. research focused on an exposed unit of feldspathic rock at Nili Patera caldera on Mars. Among other goals, I was trying to determine the exact exposed rock type, which has implications for magma evolutionary processes on Mars and is potentially how continental crust may have first developed on Earth. This determination remained inconclusive, and I often lamented how I could solve the problem with a quick visit and sample collection. So, I suppose my dream research trip would be to Nili Patera, but only if I had a way back to Earth!
LPI: Do you have a favorite hobby or interest outside of work?
GE: I’ve long been a devotee of the performing arts, and I always enjoy attending a play or musical. I’m looking forward to exploring the Houston theatre scene, so if anyone has recommendations, please let me know! Otherwise, I enjoy reading, playing board games, and occasionally moonlighting as Santa Claus.