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Morgan Cable

Photo of Morgan Cable


4800 Oak Grove Drive
M/S 183-601

Pasadena, CA 91109





Curriculum Vitae:

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Member of:

Laboratory Studies


Dr. Morgan Cable is a research scientist and group supervisor in the Astrobiology and Oceans Worlds Group at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.  She worked on the Cassini Mission as a Project Science Systems Engineer, and is currently working on the Europa Clipper Mission, which will visit the ocean world Europa around Jupiter.

Morgan’s research focuses on organic and biomarker detection strategies, through both in situ and remote sensing techniques.  While earning her Ph.D. in Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology, she designed receptor sites for the detection of bacterial spores, the toughest form of life.  As a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow at JPL, Morgan developed novel protocols to analyze organics such as amines and fatty acids using small, portable microfluidic sensors.  She is currently working as a Collaborator on the Mapping Imaging Spectrometer for Europa (MISE), an instrument selected for NASA’s next mission to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa; this spectrometer will map Europa’s surface and search for organics, salts and minerals.

Dr. Cable’s research interests also include ‘weird’ life and prebiotic chemistry.  She has performed laboratory experiments to study the liquid hydrocarbon lakes of Titan, a moon of Saturn.  She and colleagues were the first to discover a co-crystal, the equivalent of a ‘hydrated mineral’, made exclusively of organics that may exist on Titan’s surface.  This work has led to the inception of a new field, Titan ‘petrology’. This work could yield clues to organic reservoirs on Titan that life could potentially exploit.

In addition to biomarker sensor design and the search for ‘weird’ life, Morgan has also explored several extreme environments on Earth that serve as analogs for other places in the solar system, such as Mars.  She was involved in research expeditions to the driest desert in the world, the Atacama Desert in Chile, and to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.  Morgan has also co-led a team of young researchers on multiple expeditions to Iceland to study how life colonizes a fresh lava field.  The goal of this work is to inform future Mars sample return missions in terms of sample selection, preservation and analysis.


  • Ph.D., Inorganic Chemistry, California Institute of Technology (2010)
  • B.A., Chemistry (summa cum laude), Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University (2005)

Professional Experience

  • Task Manager for Strategic Initiative Project at JPL (2017-present) to retire risk in sampling the plume of Enceladus and the atmospheres of Titan and Venus at hypervelocity speeds.
  • Co-Investigator for Dragonfly Mission Concept (2018-present). Using scientific expertise regarding Titan chemistry, laboratory analogs, and biosignatures to provide input to mission, instrument, and science investigation development and science operations planning.
  • Project Staff Scientist and Deputy Phase Lead for Landing Site Selection for Europa Lander Project (2016-2018). Responsible for science operations and development of science requirements. Also responsible for Europa Lander mission landing site certification and selection. Lead writer/editor of Europa Lander Terrain Specification Document.
  • Collaborator on the Mapping Imaging Spectrometer for Europa (MISE) instrument (2015-present). Developing instrument documents and requirements, and supporting calibration activities.
  • Cassini Assistant Project Science Systems Engineer (2015-2017). Supported the Project Scientist on tasks dealing with science oversight, science trades and science issues for the Cassini Mission.
  • Research Scientist in the Cryogenic Chemistry Laboratory (2013-present). Designing and performing various laboratory experiments using custom cryostats to understand chemical and physical processes in Titan’s lakes, evaporite basins and dunes.
  • Task Manager, Instrument Concepts for Europa Exploration (ICEE) project (2013-2014). Retired radiation and planetary protection risk for an imaging spectrometer, the Europa Short Wavelength Infrared Spectrometer (ESWIRS). All tasks were completed within the 1 year timeframe. This work was leveraged to win an instrument proposal, the Mapping Imaging Spectrometer for Europa (MISE), which was selected for the Europa Mission payload in 2015.
  • Team Lead of multiple research expeditions to Iceland (2012-present). Sampling young and old lava fields as analog environments for Mars.
  • Program Manager, Flyby of Io with Repeat Encounters (FIRE) Mission Study, through the NASA Planetary Science Summer School (2012).
  • Manager of a Space Camp in South Korea (2009-present). Lead of a team of scientists and engineers who volunteer to teach an annual space camp at SongAm StarsValley Observatory in South Korea, which is home to the only Challenger Learning Center in Asia.

Research Interests

  • Planetary science
  • Remote sensing
  • In situ sensor design
  • Lab-on-a-chip technologies
  • Lanthanide photochemistry
  • Inorganic chemistry

Selected Awards

  • Named by the American Chemical Society (ACS) as one of the ‘Talented Twelve’ rising stars in chemistry (2018)
  • NASA Voyager Award, for exceptional work on outer worlds projects, chemistry and technology (2018)
  • JPL Bruce Murray Award, for excellence in education and public engagement (2018)
  • JPL Team Award, for analysis and refinement of Europa Lander science objectives (2018)
  • JPL Team Award, for excellence in developing the Europa Lander Science Definition Team (SDT) report (2017)
  • JPL Charles Elachi Explorer Award, for outstanding early career achievement (2016)
  • JPL Team Award, for work to develop a free flyer concept (Sylph) to sample a possible Europa plume (2016)
  • NASA Voyager Award, for exceptional leadership and innovation on the Europa Short Wavelength Infrared Spectrometer Project (2015)
  • NASA Mariner Award, for contributing heavily to two major NASA instrument proposals within the space of two months (2014)
  • JPL Outstanding Postdoctoral Research Award in Planetary Science (2012)
  • Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Distinguished Alumnus (2011)
  • Caltech Herbert Newby McCoy Award for outstanding achievement in chemistry (2010)
  • Valedictorian, Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University (2005)