Caltech Postdoctoral Scholars at JPL
The Caltech Postdoctoral Scholar Program at JPL exposes individuals to projects at NASA and encourages joint sponsorship and collaboration between Caltech faculty members, JPL scientists and NASA Headquarters. While postdocs in this program are employees of Caltech, they conduct their research at JPL with the support of their advisor. There are roughly 50 Caltech postdocs currently doing their research at JPL.
This program is managed through the California Institute of Technology. Research opportunities are posted in various journals and websites. Applications are accepted and evaluated by advisors throughout the year. Selection is made by the advisor and any other scientists involved in the research work with final concurrence from the Office of the Chief Scientist. Appointments are made for one year, but are renewable up to a maximum of three years.
Brad Thomson was a Caltech Postdoc at JPL, working with the Geosphysics & Planetary Geoscience group.
Q: What research do you conduct?
A: I study eolian processes on Mars, specifically the interaction of the wind with surface features such as dunes and also wind abrasion marks on rocks. These features allow us to infer both information about the current wind regime as well as previous wind regimes.
I also work with the HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) team by managing targets related to mass wasting processes. I have a number of ongoing research projects using HiRISE data, including a study of impact craters exposed in cross section by erosion.
Q: How do you think working at JPL benefited/benefiting your career?
A: Working at JPL has given the opportunity to be involved with active missions. Such opportunities are rare elsewhere. Also, I have had the chance to interact with JPL scientists from numerous disciplines. For example, I am very grateful to be assisting Simon Hook of JPL on a Mars analog project.
Q: Why should postdocs choose JPL?
A: JPL is an active NASA-affiliated research center that provides a breadth of potential research opportunities that is unparalleled. Working as a postdoc at JPL is a great way to learn the behind-the- scenes view of how planetary missions are put together and operated, and this knowledge will be useful regardless of where the next steps after the conclusion of the postdoc take you.