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Amy E. Hofmann

Photo of Amy Hofmann


4800 Oak Grove Drive
M/S 183-401

Pasadena, CA 91109



Member of:

Laboratory Studies


Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Green Morning” captured Amy’s imagination at an early age. By 9th grade, she had learned that Carl Sagan had, in fact, coined a word for “growing plants on Mars”: terraforming. From that point on, she has meandered through myriad disciplines in pursuit of answers (or, more appropriately, proto-answers) to three Big Questions:

1) How did life originate on Earth, and has it originated (and evolved) elsewhere within the Solar System?

2) What are the necessary physical parameters of a planetary system that could lead to the emergence of life?

3) Are we alone in the Universe?

Amy has used analytical instrumentation, experimentation, mathematical modeling, and computational chemistry to try and understand chemical processes and mechanisms operating at the smallest technologically accessible scales in earth and planetary materials. She uses such data to infer the geochemical (and, in some cases, geobiological) context in which these materials formed and how their chemistry may have been altered over time. She is committed to the belief that knowledge gained from these ventures will help inch us toward answers to the Big Questions listed above.


  • Ph.D., Geochemistry, California Institute of Technology (2010)
  • M.S., Geochemistry, California Institute of Technology (2008)
  • B.A., Special Studies (summa cum laude), Franklin & Marshall College (2004)

Professional Experience

  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2016 – present)
    • Research Scientist, Planetary Science Section
    • Program Scientist, Planetary Science & Instruments Formulation
    • Science Co-I & VTLS Deputy Payload Element Lead, DAVINCI
    • Program Scientist, Planetary Science & Instruments Formulation (2020 – 2022)
    • Manager, Ocean Worlds Laboratory (2016 – 2018)
  • California Institute of Technology (2016 – present)
    • Visitor, Division of Geological & Planetary Sciences
  • Franklin & Marshall College (2013 – 2016)
    • Assistant Professor of Chemistry
  • University of California, Berkeley (2012)
    • Instructor, Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (2010 – 2013)
    • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Center for Isotope Geochemistry, Earth Sciences Division
  • California Institute of Technology (2005 – 2010)
    • Graduate Research and Teaching Assistant, Division of Geological & Planetary Sciences

Community Service

  • Multiple education and public outreach events in Earth & Space Sciences with an emphasis on the development of critical thinking skills, improved scientific literacy, and attempts to illustrate how humans are intimately connected to the natural world.
  • Mentoring of women, minorities, and individuals from low-income backgrounds interested in pursuing careers in STEM.

Research Interests

  • Applications of isotope geo- and cosmochemistry to understanding fundamental processes occurring on and in planetary surfaces and atmospheres
  • Clumped isotope analyses of organic molecules in meteorites
  • In situ stable isotope analysis and characterization of planetary materials
  • Instrument design and method development for in situ, micro-scale sample analysis with a focus on mass spectrometry and tunable laser spectroscopy
  • Geology and geochemistry of the Hadean and Archean Earth in conjunction with the geology, geochemistry, and geobiology of extant Earth environments analogous to those postulated to harbor life on both the Early Earth and other solar system bodies

Selected Awards

  • Scialog Fellow, Signatures of Life in the Universe (2022)
  • JPL Voyager (2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022), Team (2018, 2019), & Discovery (2016) Awards
  • Conrad Weiser High School Distinguished Alumni Award (2019)
  • U.S. National Academy of Sciences Japanese–American Kavli Frontiers of Science Symposium Fellow (2012)
  • American Federation of Mineralogical Societies Scholarship (2006–2008)
  • NSF Graduate Fellowship Honorable Mention (2006)
  • Phi Beta Kappa (2003)

Selected Publications


  1. Stern JC, Malespin CA, Eigenbrode JL, Webster CR, Flesch G, Franz HB, House CH, Sutter B, Archer PD, Graham HV, Hofmann AE, McAdam AC, Ming D, Navarro-Gonzalez R, Steele A, Freissinet C & Mahaffy PR. (2022). “Organic carbon concentrations in 3-billion-year-old lacustrine mudstones of Mars.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 119: e2201139119.
  2. Garvin JB, Getty SA, Arney GN, Johnson N, Kohler E, Schwer K, Sekerak M, Bartels A, Saylor R, Elliott V, Goodloe C, Garrison M, Cottini V, Izenberg N, Lorenz R, Malespin C, Ravine M, Webster C, Atkinson D, Aslam S, Atreya S, Bos B, Brinckerhoff W, Campbell B, Crisp D, Filiberto J, Forget F, Gilmore M, Grinspoon D, Hofmann AE, Kane S, Kiefer W, Lebonnois S, Mahaffy P, Pavlov A, Trainer M, Zahnle K, & Zolotov M. (2022). “Revealing the Mysteries of Venus: The DAVINCI Mission.” The Planetary Science Journal 3: 117.
  3. Zeichner SS, Wilkes EB, Chimiak L, Hofmann AE, Sessions A, Makarov A, & Eiler JM. (2022). Methods and limitations of stable isotope measurements via direct elution of chromatographic peaks using Gas Chromatography Orbitrap Mass Spectrometry. International Journal of Mass Spectrometry 477: 116848.
  4. Hand KP, Phillips CB, and 285 additional co-authors including AE Hofmann. (2022) Science goals and mission architecture of the Europa Lander mission concept. The Planetary Science Journal 3: 22.
  5. House CH, Wong GJ, Webster CR, Flesch GJ, Franz HB, Stern JC, Pavlov A, Atreya SK, Eigenbrode JL, Gilbert A, Hofmann AE, Millan M, Steele A, Glavin D, Malespin CA, & Mahaffy PR. (2022) Depleted carbon isotope compositions observed at Gale crater, Mars. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 119: e2115651119.
  6. Cable ML, Porco C, Glein CR, German CR, MacKenzie SM, Neveu M, Hoehler TM, Hofmann AE, Hendrix AR, Eigenbrode J, Postberg F, Spilker LJ, McEwan A, Waite JH, Wurz P, Helbert J, Anbar A, de Vera J-P, & Nuñez J. (2021) The science case for a return to Enceladus. The Planetary Science Journal 2: 132.
  7. Jaramillo-Botero A, Cable ML, Hofmann AE, Malaska M, Hodyss R, & Lunine J (2021) Understanding hypervelocity sampling of biosignatures in space missions. Astrobiology 21: 421–442. [Cover Image]
  8. Hofmann AE, Chimiak L, Dallas B, Griep-Raming J, Juchelka D, Makarov A, Schwieters J, & Eiler JM (2020) Using Orbitrap mass spectrometry to assess the isotopic compositions of individual compounds in mixtures. International Journal of Mass Spectrometry 457: 11410.
  9. Xu C, Treadway CM, Murray VJ, Minton TK, Malaska MJ, Cable ML, & Hofmann AE (2020) Inelastic scattering dynamics of naphthalene and 2-octanone on highly-oriented pyrolytic graphite. Journal of Chemical Physics 152: 244709. [Editor’s Pick]
  10. Paque JM, Hofmann AE, Burnett DS, Guan Y, Jurewicz AJG, Woolum DS, Ma C, & Rossman GR (2020) Combined electron microprobe/SIMS analyses of Al in olivine: Applications to solar wind and pallasites. Geostandards and Geoanalytical Research 44: 473–484.
  11. Hand KP, Bartlett DH, Fryer P, Peoples L, Williford K, Hofmann AE, & Cameron J (2020) Discovery of novel structures at 10.7 km depth in the Mariana Trench may reveal chemolithoautotrophic microbial communities. Deep Sea Research Part 1: Oceanographic Research Papers 160: 103238. [Cover Image]
  12. Hand KP, Berisford D, Daimaru T, Foster J, Hofmann AE, & Furst B (2020) Penitente formation is unlikely on Europa. Nature Geoscience 13: 15–17.
  13. Christensen JN, Hofmann AE, & DePaolo DJ (2019) Isotopic fractionation of potassium by diffusion in methanol. ACS Omega 4: 9497–9501.
  14. Hofmann AE, Baker MB, & Eiler JM (2014) Sub-micron-scale trace-element distributions in zircons of known provenance: Implications for Ti-in-zircon thermometry. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology 168: 1057.
  15. Eiler JM, Berquist B, Bourg I, Cartigny P, Farquhar J, Gagnon A, Guo W, Halevy I, Hofmann A, Larson TE, Levin N, Schauble E, & Stolper D (2014) Frontiers of stable isotope geochemistry. Chemical Geology 372: 119–143.
  16. Hofmann AE, Baker MB, & Eiler JM (2013) An experimental study of Ti and Zr partitioning among zircon, rutile, and granitic melt. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology 166: 235–253.
  17. Eiler J, Cartigny P, Hofmann AE, & Piasecki A (2013) Non-canonical mass laws in equilibrium isotopic fractionations: empirical evidence from the vapor pressure isotope effect of SF6. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 107: 205–219.
  18. Hofmann AE, Bourg IC, & DePaolo DJ (2012) Ion desolvation as a mechanism for kinetic isotope fractionation in aqueous systems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 109: 18689–18694.
  19. Hofmann AE, Valley JW, Watson EB, Cavosie AJ, & Eiler JM (2009) Sub-micron-scale distributions of trace elements in zircon. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology 158: 317–335.
  20. Milman-Barris M, Beckett JR, Baker MB, Hofmann AE, Morgan Z, Crowley M, Vielzeuf D, & Stolper EM (2008) Zoning of phosphorous in magmatic olivine. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology 155: 739–765.
  21. Yoder CH, Agee TM, Ginion KE, Hofmann AE, Ewanichak JE, Schaeffer Jr. CD, Carroll MJ, Schaeffer RW, & McCaffrey PF (2007) The relative stabilities of the copper hydroxyl sulphates. Mineralogical Magazine 71: 571–577.


  1. Miller KE, Theiling B, Hofmann AE, Castillo-Rogez J, Neveu M, Hosseini S, Barnes J, de Kleer K, Barrett TJ, Franz HB, Glein CR, House CH, Blasé RC, Libardoni MJ, Spilker LJ, Choukroun M, & Drouin BJ. (2021) “The value of CHONS isotopic measurements of major compounds as probes of planetary origin, evolution, and habitability.” Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society 53(4): 243;
  2. Cable M, Waller SE, Hodyss R, Hofmann AE, Malaska MJ, Continetti RE, Jaramillo-Botero A, Abel B, Postberg F, Miller MEC, Burke S, Belousov A, Klenner F, Tallarida N, Lambert J, Fuerstenau S, Ulibarri Z, Hsu S, Lang S, Srama R, Kempf S, Shock EL, Spilker LJ, & Brucato JR. (2021) “Plume grain sampling at hypervelocity: Implications for astrobiology investigations.” Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society 53(4): 054;
  3. Phillips C, Hand K, Scully J, Pitesky J, Kraft C, Cameron M, Hofmann A, Tan-Wang G, Hofgartner J, & Cable M. (2021) “An exploration strategy for Europa.” Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society 53(4): 207;
  4. Vance S, Elder C, Hofmann A, Howell S, Milazzo M, Pappalardo RT, Noviello J, Patthoff DA, Khan Z, Rathbun J, & Vertesi J. (2021) “Addressing mental health in planetary science.” Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society 53(4): 429;
  5. Hand KP, Murray AE, Garvin JB, Brinkerhoff WB, Christner BC, Edgett KS, Ehlmann BL, German CR, Hayes AG, Hoehler TM, Hörst SM, Lunine JI, Nealson KH, Paranicas C, Schmidt BE, Smith DE, Rhoden AR, Russell MJ, Templeton AS, Willis PA, Yingst RA, Phillips CB, Cable ML, Craft KL, Hofmann AE, Nordheim TA, Pappalardo RP, and the Project Engineering Team (2017) Report of the Europa Lander Science Definition Team.