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Dr. Kim Kuhlman

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Senior Scientist

Currently resides in Albuquerque, NM
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Areas of Expertise
Targets: Asteroids, Earth, Mars, Moon, Small satellites, Solar particles/Solar wind
Disciplines/Techniques: Astrobiology, Atom Probe Tomography, Atomic Force Microscopy, Education/Public Outreach (EPO), Field Work, Focused Ion Beam, Gamma-ray spectroscopy, Geology, Geomorphology, Mass spectroscopy, Mineralogy, Neutron detectors, Numerical modeling, Scanning Electron Microscopy, Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy, Secondary Ion Mass Spectroscopy, Space-based observing, Spectroscopy, X-ray spectroscopy
Missions: GENESIS, Phoenix Mars Lander
Mission Roles: Mission science team
Instruments: Cameras

Research Interests

Dr. Kuhlman’s research focuses on the nanoanalysis of exotic materials of interest to planetary science and astrobiology, AKA nanogeology. She has worked to characterize the different types of contamination on the precious samples from the Genesis mission and develop novel methods for cleaning them without disturbing their cargo of implanted solar wind. She also uses plasma source ion implantation (PSII) to realistically simulate solar wind implantation in minerals on airless bodies in the Solar System. She utilizes many nanoanalytical techniques to fabricate and analyze samples, such as the focused ion beam (FIB), scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM), atom probe tomography (APT), secondary ion mass spectroscopy (SIMS) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) with energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS). Dr. Kuhlman also applies these techniques to the study of rock varnish, a potential analog for manganese-rich rock coatings on Mars, which host unique microbial communities on Earth.


Videos of processes used to fabricate scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) specimen from a silicate mineral using a focused ion beam (FIB):

1) Rough milling of trenches on either side of a feature of interest to create a STEM lamella for liftout inside a TESCAN Lyra focused ion beam (FIB).

 2) Liftout procedure for scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) specimens inside a TESCAN Lyra focused ion beam (FIB).


3) Welding of a STEM lamella onto a TEM grid using platinum in the FIB and then thinning the lamella to electron transparency using very small current while imaging.

Professional History

3) Dr. Kuhlman received her PhD in Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1998. She was a postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology, working on the MECA instrument suite, which eventually flew on the Phoenix mission in 2008. She joined the JPL technical staff in 2003, contributing to the instrument construction for Mars Climate Sounder on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. She joined PSI in 2005 when her husband, Dr. Greg Kuhlman, DVM & DVCIM, was accepted into the Veterinary School at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.  Imaging of one form or another, most recently at the nano-scale, has been involved in every job she has ever had.

Honors and Awards

2004, U.S. Patent Number 6,730,201. Electronic Tongue.

2006, U.S. Patent Number 7,098,454. Method of sample preparation for atom probes and source of specimens.

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