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Dr. Jamie Molaro

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Research Scientist

Currently resides in CA
jmolaro [at]
Areas of Expertise
Targets: Asteroids, Ceres, Comets, Enceladus, Europa, Icy satellites, Moon
Disciplines/Techniques: Education/Public Outreach (EPO), Field Work, Geomorphology, Numerical modeling, Thermal modeling
Missions: OSIRIS-REx

Research Interests

Dr. Molaro has extensive experience in thermal and mechanical numerical modeling, an early background in terrestrial fieldwork and instrumentation, and is an expert on the properties of rocks and regolith on airless body surfaces. Her work focuses on physical weathering processes and thermal metamorphism, and their role in landscape evolution across the solar system. She utilizes 1D, 2D, and 3D modeling to study thermally induced fracturing and rock breakdown on lunar and asteroid surfaces, and is now extending this work to study the mechanical properties and behavior of ice and ice-rock mixtures, with implications for fracture processes on asteroid, dwarf planet, and cometary surfaces. She also performs numerical and laboratory investigations to study ice sintering and densification on comets and icy satellites, with a focus on characterizing the microstructural evolution of their properties for future exploration efforts. Other projects include thermal moonquakes, asteroid resurfacing processes, regolith creep and mobilization, thermal shock processes on Mercury-crossing asteroids, and the multi-scale nature of airless body surface evolution.

Dr. Molaro is a Participating Scientist on NASA's Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission to retrieve a sample from asteroid Bennu, and a Co-I on the Project for Exploration Science Pathfinder Research for Enhancing Solar System Observations (ESPRESSO), a node of the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). She is also heavily invested in Education and Public Outreach efforts, including founding and running the Art of Planetary Science ( shows since 2013.

  • Physical weathering, surfaces, geomorphology
  • Thermal and mechanical modeling
  • Airless bodies, small bodies, icy satellites

Find me Online:

  • Professional website:
  • Personal/Art Website:
  • Twitter Handle: @spacejammie

Select Publications:

Molaro, J. L., et al., 2020. Thermal fatigue as a mechanism for asteroid activity, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, p.e2019JE006325.

Molaro, J. L., et al., 2020. In situ evidence of thermally induced rock breakdown widespread on Bennu’s surface, Nature Communications, 11(1), 1-11.

Molaro, J. L., M. Choukroun, C. B. Phillips, E. S. Phelps, R. Hodyss,, K. L. Mitchell, J. L. Lora, G. Merion-Griffith, 2018. The microstructural evolution of water ice in the solar system through sintering, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 10.1029/2018JE005773.

Molaro, JL, S Byrne, and J-L Le, 2017. Thermally induced stresses in lunar boulders, implications for breakdown. Icarus, 294, pp.247-261.

Molaro, JL, S Byrne, and S Langer, 2015. Grain-scale thermoelastic stresses and spatiotemporaltemperature gradients on airless bodies, implications for rock breakdown. JGR Planets 120,DOI: 10.1002/2014JE004729.

Professional History

2017-presResearch ScientistPlanetary Science Institute
2017-presAffiliateJet Propulsion Laboratory
2015-2017NASA Postdoctoral Program FellowJet Propulsion Laboratory
2010-2015Ph.D. & M.S. Planetary ScienceUniversity of Arizona
2013-2014Certificate in College TeachingUniversity of Arizona
2008-2009Research AssistantNASA Ames Research Center
2008Science Undergrad Laboratory Intern Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
2004-2008B.S. PhysicsSan Francisco State University


Honors and Awards

2017 Jet Propulsion Laboratory STAR Award, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
2016 Gerard P. Kuiper Memorial Award, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona
2015-present NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellowship, NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
2015 Outstanding Student Poster Award, European Geophysical Union
2015 College of Science Graduate Service Award (college-wide award), University of Arizona
2012-2015 NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship
2014 1st Place, Exploration Science Forum Student Poster Competition, SSERVI

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