Dr. Rosaly M. C. Lopes is a Principal Scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she is also Lead Scientist for Geophysics and Planetary Geosciences. Dr. Lopes was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she grew up by the famous Ipanema Beach. She moved to London, England, to study astronomy at the University of London, from where she graduated in 1978. For her doctoral studies, she specialized in planetary geology and volcanology and completed her Ph. D. in Planetary Science in 1986. Her major research interests are in planetary and terrestrial geology and volcanology. During her Ph.D. she traveled extensively to active volcanoes, particularly Mount Etna in Sicily, and became a member of the U.K.’s Volcanic Eruption Surveillance Team. Dr. Lopes joined JPL as National Research Council Fellow in 1989 and, in 1991, became a member of the Galileo Flight Project, a mission to Jupiter. She was responsible for observations of Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io from 1996 to 2001, using Galileo’s Near-infrared mapping spectrometer. During this exciting period of her career, she discovered 71 active volcanoes on Io, for which she was honored in the 2006 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records as the discoverer of the most active volcanoes anywhere.
Hometown: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Education: B.S. in Astronomy, Ph.D. in Planetary Geology
Occupation: Volcanologist and planetary scientist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Expeditions: Mount Etna, Kilauea, Vesuvius, Santorini, Montserrat, and many other volcanoes around the world
Favorite Place to Be: On top of an active volcano
Best Discovery: 71 new active volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io – it landed me in the Guinness Book of World Records for 2006
Favorite Items in the Field: Camera, hard hart (to protect from small volcanic bombs), and lots of water
Personal Hero: Astronomer Carl Sagan, for showing me the beauty of science
Hobbies: Scuba diving, traveling, hiking
Advice: Success is not about where you are on the ladder, but how far up you have climbed.
Dr. Lopes is currently a member of the Cassini Flight Project, with the role of Investigation Scientist on the Cassini Titan Radar Mapper Team. She is studying the geology of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, particularly its strange ice volcanoes. In 2006, she was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for her contributions to the studies of volcanism on Earth and the planets. She is also a member of the International Astronomical Union, the American Geophysical Society, and Fellow of the Explorers Club and of the Royal Geographical Society. She chairs the Outer Planets Task Group of the International Astronomical Union’s working group for planetary system nomenclature, and is therefore responsible for overseeing the naming of features on the outer planets and satellites.
Dr. Lopes has written many research papers, articles, book chapters and encyclopedia entries. In addition to her science work, she is a strong supporter of education, diversity, and outreach, both nationally and internationally. She is an elected member of the American Astronomical Union’s Education Board and was Co-organizer of the United Nations/ European Space Agency/The Planetary Society workshops in 1992-3, which aimed to bring space science to Developing Countries. She has given numerous public lectures in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia. She has been active in the media, giving hundreds of interviews, has been featured on ten TV documentaries, including for National Geographic, Discovery, Science, and History channels. She has written four books, “The Volcano Adventure Guide” (Cambridge University Press, 2005), “Volcanic Worlds: Exploring the Solar System Volcanoes” (Praxis-Springer, 2004), “Io After Galileo” (Praxis-Springer, 2006), and “Alien Volcanoes” (John Hopkins Press, 2008). “The Volcano Adventure Guide” is the world’s only travel guidebook to active volcanoes. “Volcanic Worlds”, which she edited with colleague Tracy Gregg (and which has a Foreword by Sally Ride) is also unique as it has chapters contributed by an all-female team of experts. In 2005, Dr. Lopes won the prestigious American Astronomical Society’s Carl Sagan medal for excellence in communicating science to the public. Among her other awards are the NASA Exceptional Service Medal (2007), the Women at Work Medal of Excellence (2006), the Latinas in Science medal from the Comision Feminil Mexicana Nacional (1991), and the 1997 Woman of the Year in Science and Technology Award from the Miami-based GEMS television.