Her head (and heart) in the stars

Abigail (Abby) Fraeman’s love of space really took off during middle school when her father brought home a telescope. Then it rocketed into the stratosphere when in high school she won a contest to spend two weeks at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Abigail (Abby) Fraeman

Washington University professor Ray Arvidson, PhD, and graduate student Abigail Fraeman pose in front of the Curiosity rover model at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“That’s when I decided to be a planetary scientist,” Fraeman said. “I was actually working at the JPL when the Mars rover Opportunity landed; it was the coolest thing!”

Now Fraeman will realize her dream. After she receives her doctorate in earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, she will head west to conduct research at the California Institute of Technology and at the JPL.

Fraeman is following in the footsteps of several WUSTL alumni who earned their Mars rover drivers licenses under the tutelage of Ray Arvidson, PhD, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University in Earth and Planetary Sciences. In his role as a Mars Exploration Rover Mission deputy principal investigator for NASA, Arvidson has mentored many students.

What’s in Fraeman’s future? Perhaps teaching? She’s keeping her options open, but her head and heart are planted firmly on Martian ground. Her doctoral dissertation is on materials and surface processes at Gale Crater (site of rover landings) and the moons of Mars.


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