Nicholas Speller Selected for NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Fellowship Program
Nicholas C. Speller, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Professor Amanda M. Stockton, within the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has garnered a NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) Fellowship to design a device for analysis of hydrated salt content on the icy surface of Europa.
His work seeks to complement the functionality of the Icy Moons Penetrator Organic Analyzer (IMPOA), a PICASSO funded effort that seeks to enable parts-per-trillion level organic analyses in lander/ rover inaccessible environments, currently being developed by the Stockton Group in collaboration with Texas Tech and Sierra Lobo. Analyses of ionic species could provide information relevant to the surface ice shell thickness, geochemical processes, and ocean composition of the icy moon. Furthermore such measurements can give context to sensitive sub-parts-per-trillion level signs of life analyses that would be performed by the IMPOA.
Speller's analyzer will employ cutting edge developments in instrument microfabrication and autonomy to fabricate a device that is robust to the physical requirements of a kinetic penetrator mission while meeting analytical merits including low detection limits and high selectivity.
A 2011 graduate of nearby Morehouse College, Speller obtained his PhD in Chemistry in 2016, under the guidance of Professor Isiah M. Warner. He is a recent addition to the Stockton Research group, with interests in the design and development of autonomous microfabricated analytical devices.
"The NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) provides early-career scientists the opportunity to share in NASA's mission, to reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind" – USRA website