Our Story

Dr. Hanna G. Sizemore

Dr. Sizemore's research focuses on the behavior of water in the current Martian climate and she is particularly interested in periglacial processes and the behavior of shallowly buried ground ice. Many of her publications explore how local characteristics of Mars’ surface interact with global climate to produce decimeter-to-meter-scale structures in subsurface ice.

She likes to think that all of Mars research can be boiled down to four basic questions: 1) How much water did Mars get when it formed? 2) How much water does Mars have today? 3) How and why did Mars transition from its former “wet” condition to its present “dry” condition? 4) Were conditions on Mars ever conducive to the development of life?

She is mainly concerned with question #2: what water is on Mars now and what is it doing? Right now Mars is a frozen desertand most of its water is frozen in the ground. Ice in the shallow regolith (lunar soil) can exchange with atmospheric water vapor by a process called vapor diffusion. Understanding the details of how that exchange happens ––and understanding the physical structure of the buried ice inside the regolith ––can give us insight into the recent climate history of Mars and give us clues about where to look for habitable environments on Mars today.

Her current research projects focus on the development of ice lenses and frost heave in the Martian regolith. Hanna approaches questions from multiple angles so she is working to improve our theoretical understanding of thin-film transport in the regoith. She is also collaborating on a project at Southwest Research Institute to test ice lens theory in the laboratory.

Hanna grew up in rural West Virginia and says it’s a place where you can see the Milky Way most nights even with your porch lights on. Perhaps because she was surrounded by awesome dark skies, she was always interested in space science. She saw Halley’s comet through binoculars when she was six years old, and her bedroom walls were always papered with pictures of the Moon and the Martian valley networks. She read all of Carl Sagan’s books in middle school, and in high school she started doing research with a mentor at a local observatory. She received her B.A. in Physics from Smith College and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Astrophysics and Planetary Science from the University of Colorado - Boulder. After earning her Ph.D., she worked as a postdoc on the Phoenix mission and at NASA Ames Research Center as a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow. She is currently serving as an associate research scientist at Planetary Science Institute and is an adjunct scientist at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. In her (rare!) free time she likes to read, knit, and figure skate.