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Women in Planetary Science: Meet Lucy McFadden

April 9, 2010

Lucy McFadden has recently moved from the University of Maryland to Goddard Space Flight Center where she is serving as Chief of University  and Post-doctoral Programs. She was a member of the NEAR science team and a Co-Investigator and director of Education and Public Outreach for NASA’s Deep Impact and Dawn Discovery missions.  She has studied the surface composition of asteroids, the Moon, Mars meteorites, the Galilean satellites of Jupiter, comets and asteroids in her career. Recently she has been working with a team of colleagues studying the shape and photometric properties of asteroid 1 Ceres and 4 Vesta, the targets of NASA’s Discovery mission called Dawn. She is also co-investigator of the Deep Impact Extended mission, (DIXI) which will fly past comet Hartley 2 in November 2010. She is founding and past director of the College Park Scholars Program, Science, Discovery & the Universe and a Co-editor of the Encyclopedia of the Solar System.

Her recent scientific publications have been led by both young scientists, including Jian Yang Li of U. Maryland, Christopher Crockett now at UCLA, Carolyn Crow and Shantanu Naidu, soon to be at UCLA, and Fabienne Bastien of Fisk-Vanderbilt University, as well as colleagues overseas, Dmitry Shestopalov and Larissa Golubeva. You can find their work by searching here.

For examples: see Carolyn Crow et al. “Our Solar System at Low Spectral Resolution: A Starting Point for Characterizing Colors of Other Systems” (DPS abstract) or  Jian-Yang Li et al. “Photometric mapping of Asteroid (4) Vesta’s southern hemisphere with Hubble Space Telescope” (Icarus, In Press).


1.         What first inspired you to study space science?

Curiosity got me. I was signing up for classes at a brand new, experimental college in Amherst, MA in 1970, (Hampshire College). It was a very exciting time in US history, the women’s movement, the end of the Viet Nam war and a burgeoning awareness of the fragility of our environment and planet.

When I arrived on campus, I had to make a list of 10 classes that I’d like to take. I eagerly wrote down, Political Justice, Film Workshop and Dimensions of Consciousness. I threw in Artificial Intelligence, the history of the development of the atomic bomb, and probably something related to biology or chemistry. I had a few slots left, and I came upon a class called Optical and Radio Astronomy.  All I could do was conjure up an image of the radio in my family’s kitchen and I wondered how that related to astronomy, so I wrote that down as my ninth choice.

Guess what happened?

2.         Where did you postdoc?

Wait, wait, I want to tell you about my delusions of studying as an undergraduate, my taking a semester off to work in the real world, about my decision to seriously pursue astronomy after attending a lecture at UC Berkeley on my day off from my waitressing job at Zims in San Francisco, which was really hard work.

I returned to Hampshire College, took a course on the Solar System from Bill Hartmann’s third edition of Moons and Planets (I still have it), and then I took an undergraduate internship at the Jet Propulsion Lab counting craters on Mercury during the Mariner 10 mission. An ex-astronaut and Hampshire College Professor, Brian O’Leary, was a co-Investigator of that mission. Brian O’Leary also introduced me to Tom McCord who encouraged me to apply to graduate school at MIT.  I think I was recruited because I wasn’t afraid to pick up a screw driver and make an adjustment to the two-beam photometer. I also answered Brian O’Leary’s question, “Where do you put the aluminium foil, to shield rf interference?”

“Everywhere,” I said, before McCord did.

At MIT, I had a lot of courses to make up and some courses I took more than once. I left with a master’s degree because McCord went to U. Hawaii to automate the 88” telescope. He offered many of us jobs in Hawaii, and guess what happened?

OK, now to answer your question about my post-doc. I did a post-doc at Goddard Space Flight Center in the Earth Resources Branch. That lasted a little over a year. When I found an opportunity in solar system research, I took it, and that was at University of Maryland with Mike A’Hearn. He had a project to study comet Halley (we are now up to 1986) with the UV telescopes of the Astro mission scheduled to fly on the space shuttle. But guess what happened? This one may not be obvious. The Challenger blew up during launch in one of the space program’s a terrible tragedies.

3.      How did you choose your current institution?

I am currently at Goddard Space Flight Center where I have been since March 15, 2010.  I saw an advertisement in EOS for a position to lead Higher Education programs (including undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral programs) and to participate in the development of university collaborations with center scientists and engineers. The time was right, as the EPOXI mission will flyby comet Hartley 2 in six months, and we are planning the 9-month orbit of asteroid 4 Vesta with the Dawn spacecraft beginning in August 2011. I am continuing those scientific activities while leading the internship and post-doctoral programs at Goddard.

So here I am back at Goddard, where I started 27 years ago. I have the opportunity to facilitate exciting exploration in science and technology by opening opportunities for young scientists and engineers. I am thrilled to be facilitating the training of the next generation of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals for the Sciences and Exploration Directorate at Goddard.

5.      Do you have any advice for students and postdocs just starting their career in space science?

Of course I do, that’s part of my job! Thanks for asking.

1) Acquire as many technical skills as you can. Be sure you can do some computer coding, have a good background in math and physics or chemistry.

2) Develop relationships with as many scientists and engineers as you can. Attend professional meetings and attend poster sessions to both learn about current research and to meet people.

3) Understand the organization in which you are working, and ask about other organizations. As a graduate student or post-doc, you have certain roles and responsibilities. Be sure you understand them. Also ask about roles and responsibilities in other organizations where scientists work. Then you’ll be prepared to step into them when the time comes.

4) Have fun, you’ll do things you never expected.

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this Lucy (and getting it to me in such short order!).  It was fascinating to hear how you arrived at your current position, and I appreciate your advice for early career scientists!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 3, 2013 12:13 am

    I love what you guys are usually up too. Such clever work and
    exposure! Keep up the great works guys I’ve added you guys to my blogroll.

  2. Captain : Nader Jneid permalink
    June 25, 2011 6:48 pm

    Evidence for the Earth’s orbital motion around the sun and rotation on its axis negated:
    kindly ask you to publish in your journal

    1. The Coriolis effect, as it applies to falling bodies, projectiles, aircraft and rocket trajectories, and the behavior of Earth’s weather systems
    Coriolis effect force is correct but it’s not coming from earth’s rotation , it is coming from the rotation of the universe.
    Coriolis force is very small if we compare it with Centrifugal force IF the earth rotates on its axis.
    If the earth rotates on its axis its Centrifugal force is:
    law… Centrifugal Force = mass × speed square ÷ radial
    mass = 100 KG
    earth radial = 6400 km
    Earth rotation speed at equator 1667 km/h
    C. F = 100 x 1667 x 1667 ÷ 6400 = 4300 k.g
    While within the circle of the pole Centrifugal Force
    mass = 100 KG
    radial = 10 k.m
    Earth rotation speed at pole 2.6 km / h
    C. F = 100 X 2.6 X 2.6 ÷ 10 = 67 k.g
    Centrifugal force increase 4300 ÷ 67 = 64 times from equator to pole ,
    but actually, the gravity difference between the equator and the pole is 0.10 , so with such a big difference in Centrifugal Force and small difference in gravity , from where is the stability if the earth turns around it self ?

    2. The precession of a Foucault pendulum, and its dependence on latitude
    Negate :
    Foucault pendulum does not mean that the earth turns around itself. Precession is coming from the speed of the universe around Earth at different speeds.
    In meteorology sciences :
    High-pressure forces air to move towards low pressure , and Coriolis force effect makes air deviate to the right in the Northern Hemisphere .
    This is what happens with the Foucoult pendulum, it begins vibratory movement then begins to deviate to the right until complete rotation, exactly what is happening with low pressure.
    3. Changes in the Doppler effect in starlight when a star is rising in the East , crossing the local meridian and then setting in the west, revealing a latitude dependent speed that must reside with the observer and not the star
    Negate :

    Instead of calculating far stars. I hope to calculate the movement of geostationary Satellites.
    All astronomers and astrophysics professors including those working at NASA, say that geostationary Satellites when put in orbit, the direction is anti clockwise like earths rotation (we’re looking north pole up).
    But actually, all geostationary Satellites when NASA’s flight center put it in orbit around the earth , the direction is clockwise (north pole up) ,
    As with the mechanics law , how can the Satellite be stationary to the earth with the difference in movement? Either
    the universe is stationery and the earth rotates on its axis clockwise, Or the universe orbits anti clockwise around the earth and the earth is stationery or standing still
    Another recalculation is:
    Solar eclipse occurs when the Moon is between the Sun and the Earth , eclipse period takes 8 hours .
    According to Copernicus theory :
    1 – Sun is stationery
    2 – The Moon orbits around the Earth 360 degrees per 29 days 14 hours and 40 Minutes in an Anti Clockwise direction = 29.6 days .
    So the Moon orbits around Earth per 24 hours 12 degrees ,
    • and within the eclipse period of 8 hours the Moon will orbit around Earth 4 degrees in an Anti Clockwise direction .
    3 – Earth, Consisting of 360 degrees , or 360 longitudes , will turn around itself within 24 hours in an Anti Clockwise direction ,
    • within the eclipse period of 8 hours, the Earth turns around itself 120 degrees or 120 longitudes in an Anti Clockwise direction ,
    As above 1, 2 & 3 :
    • If the Solar eclipse began over longitude Greenwich 000 over Africa ,
    • and the Earth turns Anti Clockwise around it self
    • the Solar eclipse will end over longitude 120 West over America
    • But actually if the Solar eclipse began over longitude Greenwich 000 over Africa it will end over longitude 120 East over Asia
    • That means either the Earth turns around itself Clockwise Or the Earth is standing still.
    4. Parallax motion of the Moon from moonrise, to meridian crossing and to moonset
    Negate :
    The Motion of the earth , sun ,moon or stars is a relative movement , but all Motion proves the earth is stationary and the center of universe.
    Gravity is pulling the lighter object , when gravity increases it will pull heavier, exactly like a jet engine at idle power starts to pull the clothes of an engineer who gives the signals to a pilot when he starts the engines
    When the pilot increases thrust, the air suction at the front engine will increase, and if the engineer is in a bad position maybe the engine will ‘gravitate’ the engineer.
    If the Sun’s gravity is greater than the earth’s gravity and the Moon’s gravity, and the Earth is orbiting around the Sun by the Sun’s gravity why does the sun not make tides when the Sun is vertical on the Earth like the Moon when vertical on the Earth?
    Earths Gravity can hold the atmosphere but can not synchronise it because the atmosphere is a gaseous material. If the earth turns around itself , it will move the atmosphere in that direction, and we should feel a big drag of the air like a car when motion.
    5. The parallax motion that can be detected in nearby stars that has a period of one year and depends on the star’s angular distance away from the ecliptic plane of the Earth’s orbit
    Stellar parallax is an observation, it doesn’t matter if Earth is the centre of the universe or the sun! It is used for trigonometry to measure star distances, but they use the SUNS ORBIT as the baseline.
    If the Earth orbits the Sun, and we sent a space shuttle toward the Sun on 21 March, and after 6 months on 23 September, the Earth has orbited 180 degrees around the Sun, and moved to the other side of the Sun. We will not be able to see the Earth from the shuttle that day, because the large size of the Sun and the Earth behind the Sun.
    But we still see the Earth from the shuttle so it is clear that the earth is the center of the universe and everything orbits around the earth?
    6. The aberration of starlight which also has a period of one year
    Why is the flight time not increased when flying opposite to the direction of the earths rotation?
    If we agree the atmosphere is turning with the Earth, the flight time will not be effected by the Earths rotation if we fly in the atmosphere.
    Where the atmosphere ends at a height 100 k.m and we fly over the atmosphere,
    If the Earth turns at speeds 1667 km/h anti clockwise direction, and we fly clockwise direction at speeds 800 km/h , so the flight time must be less , due to the opposite directional movement ,why is the flight time still increased?
    …..because the earth is standing still and the universe orbits around the earth anti clockwise.
    7. Periodic changes in the Doppler effect in starlight whose amplitude depend on the star’s angular distance away from the ecliptic plane of the Earth’s orbit (dropping to zero at the ecliptic poles) and whose magnitude varies across the year (a blue shift when the Earth is orbiting most directly toward the star, a redshift when orbiting away, and two dates with zero shift when the Earth is orbiting tangential to the direction to the star).
    When Russia decided to terminate the space station Mir and drop it in the ocean, did the engineers calculate Earth’s rotation around itself and orbit around the Sun?
    When the space shuttle returns to the Earth , do spacemen in NASA calculate Earth’s rotation around itself and orbit around the Sun?
    When a pilot is flying, does he calculate Earth’s rotation around itself and orbit around the Sun ?
    If they calculate Copernicus theory is correct
    If they dont calculate the Earth is in fact standing still and Copernicus theory is wrong and captain nadir jneid theory is fact that the Earth is standing still and the universe orbit’s it.
    8. Several effects of special and general relativity, namely the time dilation of signals from millisecond pulsars and of Earth-based clocks relative to those on satellites and spacecraft
    Does Earth’s gravity produce attraction and rejection to maintain the moon and satellites around the Earth?
    If not, what is the kind of power the moon and satellites have to maintain their circuit around the earth during transition?
    9. The simplicity of Kepler’s Laws of Planetary motion, when considered using the Sun as the central body of the Solar System.
    How do Kepler’s Laws of motion solve this motion?
    In Mechanical science if the Earth is stationary, the moon and satellites can turn around the Earth at a constant speed and angle, but if the Earth turns around the Sun at 100 thousand km/h , it makes the moon and satellites have 2 movements, the first circuit around the earth and the second transition around the Sun.
    Such as 2 cars white and black in two cases :
    First case:
    White car stationary, and the black car turns around the white car at a constant speed and angle, it is easy .

    Second case:
    White car moving at a speed of 100 km/h,
    to maintain, black car circuits around white car,
    the speed will be 100 km/h when behind the white car, then increase speed when overtaken ,
    then decrease the speed to 100 km / h when black car in front of white car .
    then decrease speed to make white car overtake
    then increasing speed to 100 km/h to be back behind the white car.
    Do the moon and satellites , have self power to enable them to increase or decrease their speed to maintain their position relative to the Earth during the Earth’s rotation around itself and around the Sun?
    10. The success of many hundreds of space missions to the Moon and other planets, as executed by heliocentric-minded scientists from the USA , European countries, Russia , China , Japan and India .
    NASA flight center , all pilots and dispatchers never calculate earths rotation around it self and orbit around the sun when making flight plans and flying , if the earth rotates and moves, aviation theory will fail any space missions to the Moon and planets.
    If the Earth was turning around itself, then its speed would be at the equator about 1667 km/h (because the Earth circumference equals (40.000) km it takes in just one course during 24 hours).
    Moreover, the speed of the moon rotation around the Earth centre about (80.000) km/h, where the moon is away from the Earth by (350.000) km.
    In addition, according to the air navigation rules, the landing point on the moons surface moves and turns with the moons movement around the Earth ; consequently, a spaceship cannot descend on the moons surface when it is close, because the maximum speed of any spaceship is (27.000) km/h, and it will collide with the moon and it will explode when its close to descending because of its movement.
    Thus, America has cheated the whole world when it said that it descended on the moons surface. All photos distributed are made in the cinematic Hollywood city.
    But if the Earth is stationary, neither turns around itself nor around the sun, so the flight and descending on the moons surface IS possible according to air navigation rules, and America has factually descended on the moons surface. This proves the fixation and stability of the Earth, thus it turns neither around itself nor around the sun.
    Other Question
    • Why is surface Wind speed so small if the earth turns at a speed of 1667 km/h? Does it mean , that the earth does not turn around itself is a Physics reality?
    • Why is wind speed so small next to the earth , and the wind speed increase as we rise from the Earth? Is it the opposite reality of physics ?
    • Does the universe orbit above Earths atmosphere that turns around the earth or is it standing still? If it turns what is the direction of rotation, is it clockwise or anticlockwise?
    • Do spacemen see the Earth’s orbit around the Sun?
    • Did the spacecraft photographe the Earth’s rotation around the Sun?
    • Why doesn’t the Earth displace the air , why don’t we feel the movement of air which results from Earths rotation , but in reality we feel the movement of the air, if we move at 10 km / h?
    • Why is the gravity of Earth able to handle and synchronies the atmosphere during the Earth’s rotation around itself at speeds 1667 km/h and around the Sun at speeds 100 thousand km/h , and is not able to handle and synchronies the atmosphere at hurricanes of the fifth degree, with speeds up to 300 km / h?
    I Kindly ask you to order the force of gravity for each of the Sun , the Earth and the moon from the strongest to weakest?
    • Is the Earth turning around the Sun by the force attraction of the Sun , as according to Kepler’s laws and the theory of Copernicus?
    • Why are ebb and tides occurring when the moon is vertical on the Earth , and does not occur when the Sun is vertical on the Earth?
    Airplane flying, and weighs 100 tons and Carrying 100 birds, each bird has a weight of 100 kg , If all birds leave the seats and flew in the airplane at the same time:
    • Does the aircraft weight still 100 tons or becomes 95 tons?
    • Also, will the birds stay inside the air plane or be outside? And Why?

    How much weight is the plane, 100 tons or 90 tons?
    • Why does your weight not change over the pole where centrifugal forces become non-existent?
    • Why does there not occur strong movements of water in the ocean during the Earth’s rotation around the Sun at variable speeds?
    • Do engineers and spacemen calculate Earth’s rotation around itself and around the Sun When Russia decided to terminate the space station Mir and drop it in the ocean within certain coordinates?
    • When the space shuttle returns to the Earth Has the spacemen in NASA calculated Earth’s rotation around itself and around the Sun when he starts the landing process?
    To correct my statement you can ask at NASA flight center.
    open the link the Earth is stationery
    Best .regards
    Thank you
    Captain : Nader Jneid
    Syrian Damascus
    Proofreader : Mike Jones
    Airline Transport Pilot F.A.A
    Flight Dispatcher F.A.A
    Discoverer of the FACT of the Earth does not turn around itself and around the Sun
    Who specializes in astronomy and space, and the Hijri and Gregorian Calendar and Prayer Timings
    Mobile: 00963 933813169

  3. April 16, 2010 9:55 am

    Kelsi, this is great! Thank you!


  1. Are you kidding me? « Women in Planetary Science

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