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SURF: Announcements of Opportunity

Below are Announcements of Opportunity posted by Caltech faculty and JPL technical staff for the SURF program. Additional AOs for the Amgen Scholars program can be found here.

Specific GROWTH projects being offerred for summer 2018 can be found here.

Each AO indicates whether or not it is open to non-Caltech students. If an AO is NOT open to non-Caltech students, please DO NOT contact the mentor.

Announcements of Opportunity are posted as they are received. Please check back regularly for new AO submissions! Remember: This is just one way that you can go about identifying a suitable project and/or mentor.

Announcements for external summer programs are listed here.

Students pursuing opportunities at JPL must be
U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents.

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Project:  Analysis of Martian Dune Activity in the Northern Hemisphere
Discipline:  Planetary Science
Mentor:  Serina Diniega, (JPL), Serina.Diniega@jpl.nasa.gov, Phone: (818) 393-1487
Background:  Over the last few years, analyses of high-resolution observations have shown that the dunes within the Martian North Polar Erg are currently very active on seasonal and yearly timescales. In particular, the brinks of many dunes seem to erode each year with small alcoves, and then are restored to a crisp and continuous edge. It has not yet been determined exactly which processes are reshaping these dunes, or at what rates this activity occurs. Proposed drivers are seasonal frost warming and sublimation, or wind-driven processes: An initial study found that these features formed during the spring season and proposed that sublimation activity could destabilize the dune slopes and overlying seasonal CO2 frost (Hansen et al., 2011). A subsequent study showed that many of the new alcoves seen in the spring were present and visible beneath the frost (Horgan and Bell, 2012), and thus proposed that alcove formation is due to wind-driven processes in the mid- to late-summer. More recent work (this project) has shown that both studies have yielded aspects of the truth: alcove activity is correlated with the presence of seasonal frost, but alcoves are first visible beneath the frost, likely implying formation during the autumn season (Diniega et al., 2017). To continue building a model for the formation of these alcoves, were now looking at the northern mid-latitude dune fields, in the hopes that there we can compile a more comprehensive set of observations.
Description:  In this project, we will track the formation and disappearance of alcoves and other avalanche features that occurred along dune downwind slopes within the northern mid-latitudes. This will be done via careful comparison of pairs of high-resolution images taken by the High-Resolution Imaging Spectrometer Experiment (HiRISE) on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), to identify when the alcoves form or disappear over the last four Mars years. Results will be compared to those found by previous students within the north polar region. Additionally, students this summer will measure the rate of total dune evolution and movement, through all active processes for comparison with alcove evolution rates.
References:  1) Hansen, C.J., M. Bourke, N.T. Bridges, S. Byrne, C. Colon, S. Diniega, C. Dundas, K. Herkenhoff, A. McEwen, M. Mellon, G. Portyankina, N. Thomas (2011). Seasonal erosion and restoration of Mars northern polar dunes. Science 331, 575-578, DOI:10.1126/science.1197636.
2) Horgan, B.H.N., J.F. Bell III (2012). Seasonally active slipface avalanches in the north polar sand sea of Mars: Evidence for a wind-related origin. Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L09201, DOI:10.1029/2012GL051329.
3) Diniega, S., C.J. Hansen, A. Allen, N. Grigsby, Z. Li, T. Perez, M. Chojnacki (2017). Dune-slope activity due to frost and wind throughout the north polar erg, Mars. Martian Gullies and their Earth Analogues. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 467, DOI:10.1144/SP467.6.
Student Requirements:  Most of the work will involve close visual inspection of spacecraft images of Mars. Thus, this work is appropriate for students new to research; with an appreciation for detail-oriented, somewhat monotonous, mostly brain-exercising (vs. hands-on) work; and an interest in geology and/or planetary science and in seeing how a research project is designed. This project does not require specific background knowledge or skills, beyond basic computer comfort; but when possible, can be expanded to incorporate the students specific interests. The mentor welcomes applications from students from diverse backgrounds and skill sets, and strongly encourages contact to be made before the end of 2017. Note that due to building restrictions I can only accept US Citizen or LPR students.
Location / Safety:  Project building and/or room locations: . Student will need special safety training: No.
Programs:  This AO can be done under the following programs:

  Program    Available To
       SURF    both Caltech and non-Caltech students 

Click on a program name for program info and application requirements.


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