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From the Ground Up

NASA scientist Lori Glaze’s interest in earthly volcanoes has gone interstellar

Lori Glaze

In many ways, Lori Glaze was destined to be a scientist. Her mother and father were aeronautical engineers, and her aunt worked in computer science in the early 1960s. Combine that scientific pedigree with an inherent interest in math and science, and Dr. Glaze's career path was pretty much set. Science it would be.

"When I discovered that physical processes are described by mathematics, I was off and rolling," she says. "And I was extremely lucky to have great female role models who worked in scientific fields. It never occurred to me that I should consider anything else!"

Winnowing her curiosity about the world and its inner workings into a specific field of study was another matter, but Glaze was lucky to find her imagination sparked by a Pompeii museum exhibit she visited in 1979. A year later, she was in Seattle when Mount Saint Helens erupted about 100 miles south of the city.

Glaze, who grew up in Arlington and attended Bowie High School, says UTA was the logical choice for college, and she enrolled in 1982. The physics major took her first class in volcanology during her senior year.

That class, then taught by Stephen Self, a world-renowned volcanologist, would determine the trajectory of her education and her ultimate career path. Glaze continued studying under Dr. Self as she earned her master's degree and through him made valuable connections at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she went to work after completing her degree. Eventually, she earned a Ph.D. in volcanic eruption plume dynamics from Lancaster University in England.

At Lancaster, Glaze worked with another volcanologist who was famous for his work in both Earth and planetary volcanology. With her newly minted Ph.D., she joined a private science research company. After 11 years, she got a call from the chief scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center inviting her to work with him on a new Mars mission concept proposal.

"Working on that proposal opened my eyes to the world of planetary mission development," she says. "I soon joined Goddard permanently and have been working on new mission concepts ever since."

In her current role as deputy director of the Solar System Exploration Division at Goddard, Glaze has her sights set a little further from home-all the way to Venus, in fact. As the principal investigator of a proposed mission concept called the Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble Gases, Chemistry, and Imaging (DAVINCI), she leads a team of 21 scientists from 13 institutions and approximately 100 engineers. Together, they're developing a probe concept that would arrive at Venus in June 2023 and hopefully answer key questions about the planet's evolutionary pathways.

"Venus is our closest neighbor in the solar system, yet it remains extremely mysterious," she says. "Understanding why and how it is different from Earth is becoming more and more important as new planets are discovered around other stars in our galaxy, some of which may be habitable."