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 Interstellar and Heliospheric Physics (3263): People
Michaela  Villarreal's Picture
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena, CA 91109
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Curriculum Vitae:

Michaela Villarreal

My main research has focused on how the solar wind interacts with bodies that do not currently possess a dynamo. At Venus, I investigated how the ionosphere cam become magnetized during instances of high solar wind dynamic pressure. More recently, I have examined how solar energetic particle events may release subsurface water at Ceres to create a temporary atmosphere on the dwarf planet. At JPL I will be working on magnetohydrodynamic simulations of Jupiter's plasma torus with Europa.

  • B.A. in Planetary Science, UC Berkeley (2011)
  • M.S. in Geophysics and Space Physics, UCLA (2016)
  • Ph.D. in Geophysics and Space Physics, UCLA (2018)

Research Interests

Small bodies, ocean worlds, and heliophysics


Dawn Icon Dawn
Dawn's goal is to characterize the conditions and processes of the solar system's earliest epoch by investigating in detail two of the largest protoplanets remaining intact since their formations.

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
  • Undergraduate Researcher, UC Berkeley Space Sciences Lab (2010-2012)
  • Dawn Science Team Member (2013-2019)
  • NASA Postdoctoral Program (current)

Selected Awards

Cota-Robles Fellow (2013-2017)

Selected Publications

Villarreal, M.N., C. T. Russell, J.G. Luhmann, W. T. Thompson, T. H. Prettyman, M.F.  A’Hearn, M. Küppers, L. O’Rourke, and C. A. Raymond, The Dependence of the  Cerean Exosphere on Solar Energetic Particle Events,  ApJL 838, L8 (2017)


Villarreal, M.N., C. T. Russell, H. Y. Wei, Y. J. Ma, J. G. Luhmann, R. J. Strangeway, and  T. L. Zhang, Characterizing the low-­‐‑altitude magnetic belt at Venus: Complementary observations from the Pioneer Venus Orbiter and Venus Express, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 12, 2232-­‐‑2240 (2015)


Jia, Y.D., M.N. Villarreal, C. T. Russell, Possible Ceres Bow Shock Surfaces Based on  Fluid Models, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 122, 4976-­‐‑4987 (2017)


Schorghofer, N., S. Byrne, M.E. Landis, E. Mazarico, T.H. Prettyman, B. E. Schmidt, M.  N. Villarreal, J. Castillo-­‐‑Rogez, C. A. Raymond, and C. T. Russell, The Putative Cerean Exosphere, ApJ 850 85 (2017)


Russell, C. T., et al., Dawn arrives at Ceres: Exploration of a small volatile-­‐‑rich world, Science 353 (6303), 1008-­‐‑1010 (2016)


Zhang, T. L., W. Baumjohann, C. T. Russell, M.N. Villarreal, J. G. Luhmann, and W. L. Teh, A statistical study of the low-­‐‑altitude ionospheric magnetic fields over thenorth pole of Venus, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 120, 6218-­‐‑6229 (2015)


Luhmann, J.G., Y.J. Ma, M.N. Villarreal, H. Y. Wei, T.L. Zhang, The Venus-­‐‑solar wind  interaction: Is it purely ionospheric?, Planetary and Space Science 119, 36-­‐‑42 (2015)

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