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 Planetary Interiors and Geophysics: People
Samuel  Howell's Picture
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
M/S 183-301
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena, CA 91109
(626) 590-5385
Curriculum Vitae:

Samuel Howell

Samuel is an Ocean Worlds Scientist in the Planetary Interiors and Geophysics Group at JPL. He primarily works on constraining geologic processes on Ocean Worlds and the connection from their icy surfaces to interiors. Additionally, he supports the Europa Clipper mission as a Project Staff Scientist, and is the Deputy Principle Investigator and Lead Scientist for JPL's PRIME, a technology concept to explore the interior oceans of Ocean Worlds.

Samuel obtained his B.S. in Engineering Physics from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology with a concentration in Mechanical Engineering and minor in Thermal Fluid Mechanics. He obtained his M.S. and PhD in Geology and Geophysics University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, where he explored planetary-scale process through studies of local surface features. His research on Earth, the first-discovered Ocean World, focused on the simple understanding that observable features are fingerprints of the planetary processes at depth: failure, flow, melting, mixing, and material transport. Samuel’s graduate research garnered national attention, including a 2016 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award for innovation detecting and predicting motions on the San Andreas Fault.

Samuel’s current and proposed research concerns the mechanisms and timescales of ocean world material mixing and evolution, as well as the exchange of materials between interior oceans and outer ice shells. His recent research linking tectonic processes on Europa and Ganymede to the surface exposure of fossilized ocean material received NASA-wide coverage and the 2017 JPL Outstanding Postdoctoral Research Award in Planetary Science and Astrobiology.

In his spare time, he has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, completed triathlons and marathons, and serendipitously met his wife, Marissa, an expert on the surfaces of icy moons.


PhD Geology and Geophysics, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Dec. 2017

M.S. Geology and Geophysics, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Aug. 2013

B.S. Engineering Physics, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, May, 2010


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 (2017-present)
    • Research Scientist, Ocean Worlds, Planetary Interiors and Geophysics Group (2019 - Present)
    • Project Staff Scientist, Europa Clipper (2019 – Present)
    • JPL Postdoctoral Researcher, Ocean Worlds Group (2019)
    • Europa Clipper Science Team Postdoctoral Affiliate in Project Science (2017-2019)
  • California Institute of Technology, Postdoctoral Scholar, JPL Planetary Chemistry and Astrobiology Group (2017 - 2019)
  • University of Hawai’i at Mānoa  (2010-2016)
    • Research Assistant (2010-2016)
    • Teaching Assistant (2011)

Selected Projects

  • Principle Investigator, NASA Solar System Workings, 2021-2023, Europa’s Icy Tectonics: First-Principles and Higher-Order Modeling,
  • Deputy Principle Investigator and Lead Scientist, Probe Using Radioisotopes for Icy Moons Exploration (PRIME), 2019 - present
  • Co-Investigator, NASA Solar System Workings, 2020-2022, Did Solid Tides Prevent The Thermodynamic Death Of Europa?
  • Co-Investigator, NASA Solar System Workings, 2020-2022, Compositions of Ice Shells on Ocean Worlds
  • Co-Investigator, NASA Scientific Exploration Subsurface Access Mechanism for Europa (SESAME), 2019-2021, Search for Life Using Submersible Heated Drill (SLUSH)

Selected Awards
  • Outstanding Postdoctoral Research in Planetary Science and Life Detection, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2017)
  • Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award for “The vertical fingerprint of earthquake cycle loading in Southern California” (2016)
  • Graduate Achievement Award, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa Office of Graduate Education (2015)

Selected Publications
  • Howell, S. M., Stone, W. C., Craft, K., German, C., Murray, A., Rhoden, A., & Arrigo, K. (2020). Ocean Worlds Exploration and the Search for Life, submitted to the 2023-2032 Decadal Survey in Planetary Science and Astrobiology, arXiv:2006.15803.
  • Howell, S., R.T. Pappalardo (2020), NASA’s Europa Clipper—a mission to a potentially habitable ocean world? Nature Communications, doi:10.1038/s41467-020-15160-9
  • Howell, S., R.T. Pappalardo (2019), Can Earth-like plate tectonics occur in the outer ice shells of icy satellites? Icarus, doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2019.01.011
  • Howell, S., J-A. Olive, G. Ito. M. D. Behn, J. Escartin, B. Kaus (2019), Seafloor expression of oceanic detachment faults reflects gradients in mid-ocean ridge magma supply, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2019.04.001
  • Howell, S., L. Chou, 18 others (2018), Centaur reconnaissance mission concept: Chariklo flyby and impact, Planetary and Space Science, doi:10.1016/j.pss.2018.07.008
  • Howell, S., R.T. Pappalardo (2018), Band formation and ocean-surface interaction on Europa and Ganymede, Geophysical Research Letters, doi:10.1029/2018GL077594
  • Howell, S., G. Ito, M. D. Behn, F. Martinez, J.-A. Olive, and J. Escartín (2016), Magmatic and tectonic extension at the Chile Ridge: Evidence for mantle controls on ridge segmentation, Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., doi:10.1002/2016GC006380
  • Howell, S., B. Smith-Konter, N. Frazier, X. Tong, D. Sandwell (2016), The vertical fingerprint of earthquake cycle loading in Southern California, Nature Geoscience, doi:10.1038/ngeo2741
  • Olive, J.-A., M. D. Behn, G. Ito, W. R. Buck, J. Escartín, S. Howell (2016), Response to Comment on “Sensitivity of seafloor bathymetry to climate-driven fluctuations in mid-ocean ridge magma supply”, Science, doi:10.1126/science.aaf2021
  • Olive, J.-A., M. D. Behn, G. Ito, W. R. Buck, J. Escartín, S. Howell (2015), Sensitivity of seafloor bathymetry to climate-driven fluctuations in mid-ocean ridge magma supply, Science, doi:10.1126/science.aad0715
  • Howell, S., G. Ito, A.J. Breivik, A. Rai, R. Mjelde, B. Hanan, K. Sayit, P. Vogt (2014), The origin of the asymmetry in the Iceland hotspot along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge from continental breakup to present-day, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2014.02.020

Outreach Publications

  • Howell, S., (2020), Diving into Ocean Worlds, ECO Magazine, May/June issue, 27-29.
  • Boston, S. Howell, J. Sleeper, A. Anderson, M. Cameron, T. Sigurdardottir, J. Tree, H. Togia, B. Smith-Konter, G. F. Moore, (2018), Seafloor Mapping at Your Fingertips: Setting Sail on Sonar Education with an Interactive Exhibit, The Earth Scientist, 34, 1, 11-15.
  • Boston, S. Howell, G. Moore, University of Hawaii Geophysical Society (2014), A miniature research vessel: A small-scale ocean-exploration demonstration of geophysical methods, The Leading Edge, SEG, doi:10.1190/tle33121408.1

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