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 Laboratory Studies (3227): People
Amy E. Hofmann's Picture
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
M/S 183-301
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena, CA 91109
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Amy E. Hofmann

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, Franklin & Marshall College (2004)

Research Interests
  • Applications of isotope geo- and cosmochemistry to understanding fundamental processes occurring on planetary surfaces, atmospheres, and interiors
  • Stable isotope compositions of extraterrestrial materials
  • Exploration and characterization of icy and ocean worlds in the outer solar system
  • Instrument design for in situ, micro-scale sample analysis with a focus on mass spectrometry
  • 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


Europa Mission Icon Europa Mission

NASA's Europa mission will conduct detailed reconnaissance of Jupiter's moon Europa to investigate whether the icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life.

Professional Experience
  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2016 – present)
    • Research Scientist
    • Project Staff Scientist, Europa Lander Mission Concept
    • Manager, Ocean Worlds Laboratory (2016 – 2018)
  • 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.

Selected Awards
  • JPL Voyager (2018), Team (2018), & Discovery (2017) Awards
  • 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. Christensen, JN, Hofmann AE, & DePaolo DJ. (2019) “Isotopic fractionation of potassium by diffusion in methanol.” ACS Omega 4: 9497–9501.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 SF6Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 107: 205–219.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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. Yahnker CR, Brinkman A, Hendry ML, Jasper JD, Shiraishi LR, Siegel KJ, Tevere EL, & Hofmann AE (2018) Introduction to tools and techniques for surface sampling on Europa. 16thBiennial ASCE International Conference on Engineering, Science, Construction, and Operations in Challenging Environments. Paper # 1570356452.
  2. Berisford DF, Furst B, Sahu D, Poston MJ, Foster J, Hofmann AE, Schoelen D, Daimaru T, & Hand KP (2018) Laboratory simulation of sublimating planetary surface ices: Experiment design and thermal considerations. 48th International Conference on Environmental Systems. Paper # ICES-2018-316.


  1. 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.

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