Explore Mars

BaldridgeMars may be 33 million miles away, but Alice Baldridge, assistant professor of Environmental and Earth Science and Studies, is bringing knowledge of the Red Planet down to Earth and onto campus.

A former NASA postdoctoral fellow, Baldridge has made Mars her life’s work. Her research focuses on studying the geology of the dry lakes of Western Australia to understand what Mars would have been like more than 3 billion years ago and whether it had any forms of life.

Baldridge asks the question that everyone wants answered: Are we alone in the universe?

“If we can show that life got started elsewhere in our solar system, it greatly increases the possibility that more evolved life forms exist somewhere in the universe,” she said.

Baldridge weaves Mars into all of her classes, teaching students to interpret satellite imagery and helping them understand the process of planetary surface formation. She has taken students to the Grand Canyon and Death Valley, using the earth as her classroom and showing them an array of scientific research opportunities they can pursue.

Four students from four different majors—biology, geology, physics and education—have worked on research with Baldridge. Senior Charlie Cocks spent last summer analyzing satellite imagery from Western Australia to determine whether its mineral groups are similar to those of Gale Crater on Mars. They are. His findings, along with those of fellow senior Alina Nguyen will be presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco in December.

“Working with Dr. Baldridge is so exciting,” said Cocks. “I’m learning things I would have never been able to learn if I hadn’t met her.” And he’s exploring a career involving remote sensing, a skill he picked up from his professor with a passion for Mars.