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Dr. Rebecca Williams

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Senior Scientist

Currently resides in WI
williams [at]
Areas of Expertise
Targets: Earth, Mars
Disciplines/Techniques: Education/Public Outreach (EPO), Field Work, Geology, Geomorphology, Ground-based observing, Mapping, Numerical modeling, Remote sensing
Missions: Mars 2020, Mars Odyssey, MRO, MSL
Mission Roles: Mission Co-Investigator, Mission operations, Mission science team, Science operations
Instruments: Cameras

Research Interests

The unifying objective of Dr. Rebecca Williams’ research is unraveling the history of water on Mars through qualitative and quantitative characterization of landforms using image and topographic datasets. Her investigations of martian geomorphology principally center on landscape evolution by surface runoff. These studies seek to constrain the relative timing, duration, and magnitude of fluvial processes on Mars. Individual projects have examined these questions for large-scale features (outflow channels and valley networks) as well as small-scale landforms (sub-kilometer fans and recently recognized inverted channel networks). Her research builds upon field observations of terrestrial analogs to enhance the interpretation of remotely sensed data from Mars. 

Professional History

Dr. Williams received her PhD in Planetary Sciences in 2000 from Washington University where she studied martian valley network and outflow channel morphology using Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) data.  Working at Malin Space Science Systems, she was part of the targeting team for the Mars Orbiter Camera from 2001 to 2004. She was a Lindbergh Fellow at the Smithsonian's Center for Earth and Planetary Science at the National Air and Space Museum.  In 2005, she joined the permanent science staff of PSI.  Dr. Williams has served in the role of principal investigator for eleven NASA-funded research projects.  She is a participating scientist for the CTX and THEMIS cameras, and with the Mars Science Laboratory mission.

Honors and Awards

Dr. Williams has received several group awards for her work on various missions, including the NASA Group Achievement Award for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) CTX Science Team (2011).  As part of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Science Team, she was awarded NASA Group Achievement Awards for the MSL Science Office Development and Operations Team (2013) and the MSL Prime Mission Science and Operations Team (2015). In 2006, Dr. Williams was awarded a NASA Carl Sagan Fellowship for Early Career Researchers.  The Waunakee Teachers Association designated her a 2016-2017 Friend of Education for her multi-year education and public outreach activities with students at all levels in the school district. As an undergraduate at Franklin & Marshall College, she received the Nancy Juerges Geomorphology Award (1994), the John Keshner Scholar in Physics and Astronomy Award (1994, 1995) and the John Holzinger Astronomy Award (1995).  She received a Scholars Award from IBM in 1993, and scholarships from the Marathon Oil Company (1991) and American Airlines (1990).

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