Elisabetta Pierazzo, better known as “Betty,” has passed away. A memorial page has been set up on Facebook to remember her life and friendship. Please visit the Memorial for Betty Pierazzo page and/or leave comments here.
She will be missed.
Edited 18 May 2011: The following was forwarded to us by the Planetary Science Institute.
Elisabetta Pierazzo, Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute,
died at her home in Tucson, Arizona, on May 15. She was 47.
Betty was an expert in the area of impact modeling throughout the solar
system, as well as an expert on the astrobiological and environmental
effects of impacts on Earth and Mars. Her work ranged widely, from providing
detailed insights into the Chicxulub impact that caused the extinction of
the dinosaurs to putting constraints on the thickness of the ice shell of
Jupiter’s moon Europa. She was interested in the rise of life and explored
the delivery of organics to planets and Europa by comets as well as the
creation of subsurface hydrothermal systems by impacts that may have been
favorable sites for life on Mars.
She was also an expert on Meteor Crater in Arizona and made several
appearances on national and international broadcasts of programs including
National Geographic specials, explaining the formation of this well-known
structure. Betty was innovative, rigorous and systematic in her approach to
science. She recognized the need for benchmarking and validating the
different complex numerical codes to model impact and explosion cratering,
organizing and leading a community effort to accomplish this major task.
In addition to her science, Betty passionately promoted science education
and public outreach. She took time away from her successful research career
to teach undergraduates at the University of Arizona, she developed
interactive websites and impact rock and meteorite kits for classroom use,
as well as created professional development workshops for elementary and
middle school science teachers.
Betty arrived in the United States in 1989 from Italy and the following year
attended graduate school at the Department of Planetary Sciences at the
University of Arizona. She handled the difficulties of living in a foreign
country by opening her house and her kitchen to others. She received her
Ph.D. in 1997. The quality of her graduate work was recognized by the
University of Arizona with the Gerard P. Kuiper Memorial Award. She
continued at the University of Arizona as a Research Associate, and in 2002
joined the Planetary Science Institute as a Research Scientist. She was
promoted to Senior Scientist in 2007.
Betty was an active member of the planetary community. She served on
numerous NASA review panels, was an associate editor of Meteoritics and
Planetary Sciences, reviewed papers for numerous scientific journals, served
as organizer of workshops and meetings on impact cratering held around the
world, and was an organizer of the 2007 Meteoritical Society Meeting held in
Betty was noted for the intensity with which she approached both life and
work. Whether it was in the office, the classroom, on the volleyball court,
the soccer field, or dance floor, her enthusiasm and joy in the activity was
irresistible. She was cherished by very many people for her staunch
friendship and support. She inspired countless people as a colleague,
teacher, mentor and friend. Her life was even more brightened with her
marriage to Keith Powell in 2007.
Over the past six months, Betty battled a rare form of cancer. She dealt
with it aggressively, and never let it overwhelm her. She was always looking
towards the future. In the last week of her life, in the midst of
chemotherapy, she was grading class papers, working on research papers,
writing reviews and preparing education proposals with her colleagues, all
the while finding time to spend precious moments with her family and
friends. She was ultimately and suddenly struck down by a pulmonary
Her loss is great to all those who knew her and worked with her. Hers is a
great loss to the Planetary Science Institute and to our profession. We are
grateful to her husband, Keith, and to her family for the time she did have
A viewing will take place Thursday, May 19 at 5 p.m. at Evergreen Mortuary,
3015 N. Oracle Road, Tucson, Arizona. Funeral services will be held Friday,
May 20 at 10 a.m. at St. Thomas the Apostle Chapel at 5150 N. Valley View