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2024-2026 Internship - Dragonfly Guest Investigator - UV Fluorescence of Titan's Organic Materials

Company: The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Labor
Location: Laurel
Posted on: July 9, 2024

Job Description:


Have you dreamed of flying on another world?Have you imagined a desert world where the sand dunes are made of the building blocks of life, and it rains methane?Are you prepared to be a part of a journey to the most Earth-like and yet alien world in the solar system?This world is Saturn's moon Titan, and Dragonfly, the mission headed to it, seeks Student & Early Career Investigators.Dragonfly Student & Early Career Investigator Program:Saturn's moon Titan is the only moon in our solar system with a dense atmosphere, which supports an Earth-like hydrological cycle of methane clouds, rain, lakes and seas. Complex organic surface materials preserve, in a deep freeze, the types of organic chemicals that were present on Earth before life developed. Titan's icy crust floats atop an interior liquid water ocean. Dragonfly is a rotorcraft lander (an octocopter) that will explore a variety of locations on Titan. Launching in 2028 and reaching Titan in 2034, Dragonfly will journey farther than any robotic lander has ever traveled. With one hop on average every other Titan-day (one Titan-day equals 16 Earth days), the rotorcraft will travel from its initial landing site to areas over 80 kilometers away during its planned 3.3-year mission.Each Student Investigator will work with one or more Dragonfly mission team members to conduct Titan research, help formulate Dragonfly mission science and operations plans, or assist in the development of instrumentation, hardware, or testing for a two-year term. Students dedicate 30% of their time (concentrated during summer and academic breaks) at APL and/or their Dragonfly mentor's home institution and will receive annual funding for travel to Dragonfly team meetings and to publish and present results at a scientific conference. A faculty mentor at each student's home institution will be granted travel support to attend the annual Dragonfly Student & Early Career Investigator Program kickoff meeting.At 90K, Titan's surface is expected to be composed of water ice and organics. The latter may be liquid (e.g., methane and ethane) or solid (e.g., acetylene, butane, and benzene). Some of the expected organic compounds are known to fluoresce when illuminated by UV light. Cataloging the fluorescence properties of tholins, lab-made analogs of complex organic compounds that form in Titan's atmosphere and are thought to settle onto the surface and accumulate into dunes, will provide a useful reference library for in situ observations made with Dragonfly. Dragonfly's camera suite, DragonCam, is capable of illuminating the surface with UV LEDs and observing the reflectance in 3 colors to help classify surface materials and inform the decision of whether or not to conduct additional investigations (e.g., take a sample, and analyze it with other instruments).Project Description: UV Fluorescence of Titan's Organic Materials In this project the guest investigator will illuminate analogs of Titan surface materials with UV light at 90K in the Cryogenic Chemistry Laboratory at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and record the fluorescence spectra. Analogs will include tholins, smaller aromatic molecules, and organics that have been chemically modified by contact with liquid water. This catalog of reflectance properties will then be used to model the spectral response that will be observed by DragonCam.TasksThe student will be trained to handle tholin and other organic samples, operate the cryogenic sample stage, and operate the spectrometer at JPL. Observed reflectance spectra will then be used at APL to model the DragonCam measured spectra using specifications of the LEDs and camera. The project tasks include:Preparing samples for spectral analysis and conducting measurements.Analyzing experimental results Developing a catalog of reflectance spectraDepending on progress, the student may also image the samples with a benchtop model of DragonCam's microscopic imager and LED suite. This project will primarily be completed in the Cryogenic Chemistry Laboratory at JPL during at least the first summer, in close collaboration with scientists and engineers at APL. OutcomeThe collected reflectance spectra will provide a novel catalog of UV properties of Titan-relevant materials that will be of high interest to the Dragonfly team and the Titan community. This project will contribute to the development of DragonCam and the operational plans for imaging and analyzing Titan's surface using UV LEDs. The results of this study are expected to be published in a scientific journal and/or presented at a scientific conference.More information on the Dragonfly mission and instruments can be found in the videos at

You meet our minimum qualifications for the job if you...Are CURRENTLY pursuing a master's or doctoral degree in the physical sciences, biological sciences, computer sciences, mathematics or engineering at a U.S. institution AND will continue doing so throughout the 2-year duration of the internship.Have at least a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scaleHave demonstrated ability to conduct independent research or developmentHave excellent organizational and communication skills (written and oral)Have the ability to work both independently and in a team environment. Have successfully completed some coursework in chemistry and physics, and have laboratory experience in any physical science or engineering field. In addition to a mentor on the Dragonfly team who leads this project, applicants must identify a faculty member at their home institution who can serve as a faculty mentor for the 2-year duration of their participation in the program. Include as an attachment to your profile...

  • A cover letterA Curriculum Vitae (CV) The name and contact information for the prospective faculty advisor at your home institutionA 2-3 sentence statement from the prospective faculty advisor in which they agree to support the student, as a faculty mentor, for the 2-year duration of their participation, should they be selected to work on Dragonfly.
  • To access APL's facilities and networks, U.S. Citizenship or permanent residence status is required.You will go above and beyond our minimum requirements if you...Have some familiarity with programming (especially Python), and with laboratory spectroscopy.An intent of this program is to broaden mission participation; thus, it is intended for students who are not affiliated with, and whose faculty and/or research advisors are not involved with, Dragonfly or other spacecraft missions. Students who do not have a background in planetary science, the geosciences, atmospheric science, or their associated subfields are encouraged to apply)Base pay range for this role: $21.90 - $46.45 an hourMore information on this and other Dragonfly Student and Early Career Investigator opportunities can be found at Why work at APL?The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) brings world-class expertise to our nation's most critical defense, security, space and science challenges. While we are dedicated to solving complex challenges and groundbreaking new technologies, what makes us truly outstanding is our culture. We offer a vibrant, welcoming atmosphere where you can bring your authentic self to work, continue to grow, and build strong connections with inspiring teammates.At APL, we celebrate our differences and encourage creativity and bold, new ideas. Our employees enjoy generous benefits, including a robust education assistance program, unparalleled retirement contributions, and a healthy work/life balance. APL's campus is located in the Baltimore-Washington metro area. Learn more about our career opportunities at .
    About Us

    APL is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, creed, color, religion, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, age, physical or mental disability, genetic information, veteran status, occupation, marital or familial status, political opinion, personal appearance, or any other characteristic protected by applicable law.APL is committed to promoting an innovative environment that embraces diversity, encourages creativity, and supports inclusion of new ideas. In doing so, we are committed to providing reasonable accommodation to individuals of all abilities, including those with disabilities. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate in any part of the hiring process, please contact Only by ensuring that everyone's voice is heard are we empowered to be bold, do great things, and make the world a better place.

Keywords: The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Labor, Baltimore , 2024-2026 Internship - Dragonfly Guest Investigator - UV Fluorescence of Titan's Organic Materials, Other , Laurel, Maryland

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