Keynote Speaker

Michelle Thompson, Ph.D.

Thursday, April 18th, 2024, from 2:00 to 3:15 p.m. in Gyte 103

“A Time Machine to the Early Solar System: Returning Samples from Asteroid Bennu with the OSIRIS-REx Mission”

Asteroids provide a window into the earliest parts of our solar system history and studying material from asteroids provides us with an opportunity to take an inventory of the building blocks of the terrestrial planets, and the organic materials that could have seeded life on Earth. Here we will follow the journey of the NASA OSIRIS-REx mission to asteroid Bennu and back again, all the way from its launch in 2016 to the recent return of samples to Earth in 2023. OSIRIS-REx is transforming our understanding of the early solar system and we will explore the incredible scientific results that have come from our analysis of these samples.


Dr. Michelle Thompson.

About the Speaker

Dr. Michelle Thompson grew up in Canada and received BSc degrees in Geological Engineering and Biology from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Her interest in planetary science was sparked when she completed internships at the NASA Johnson Space Center and the Royal Ontario Museum. She then completed her MSc and PhD in Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona before moving on to a NASA Postdoctoral Fellowship at Johnson Space Center. Dr. Thompson came to Purdue as an Assistant Professor in 2018. The recipient of a NASA Early Career Fellowship, her work focuses on understanding the alteration of airless body surfaces, a process known as space weathering. Dr. Thompson uses experimental laboratory techniques to simulate airless body surface conditions and compares these results to the analysis of returned samples from the Moon and near-Earth asteroids. She will be one of the first six scientists — and the first woman — to analyze samples of asteroid Bennu brought to Earth by OSIRIS-REx.