Samantha Baker

Samantha Baker

Grad student in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences

Hometown: Durham, NC

Date of this Interview: January 6, 2024

What do you research?

In my current research, I use remotely-sensed data from satellites to understand processes on planetary surfaces. I am examining clays on Mars, minerals that we know formed through interaction of the rock with ancient water. I use visible–near-infrared spectra to determine the chemistry of these clays and their associated minerals that can act as indicators of the chemistry of that Martian water. By combining these spectra with high-resolution imagery and topographic data to analyze the stratigraphic relationships of these minerals, I can use the mineralogy to better understand the processes of chemical weathering on Mars. I also use remote sensing to analyze patterns in Arctic river temperature and the ways in which they may have been affected by climate change here on Earth.

Why does space inspire you?

I think that studying space provides an incredible sense of perspective. When I think about it, I feel wonderfully small but also acutely aware of how incredible it is that we are able to understand space enough to even have a real sense of that scale. There are so many questions still to be answered though, and so space continues to be a site of constant curiosity. I am also continually amazed at space’s ability to record the processes it has experienced, allowing us—if we understand it’s structure and chemistry—to read the story of our universe.

If you could instantly travel to any point in the universe, where would you choose to go?

Anywhere on Mars, but at the moment I would pick my research locations so I could see them up close and personal!

Where can you be found when you’re not conducting research?

I love going swimming, hiking, or finding a pretty place to sit outside and read.

What book do you wish you could read for the first time again?

The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin

Samantha setting up an imaging spectrometer

Samantha setting up an imaging spectrometer as part of a project to understand how temperature and crystallinity affect the spectra of lava.