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Vivian  Sun's Picture
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
M/S 183-301
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena, CA 91109
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Curriculum Vitae:

Vivian Sun
JPL Postdoc

Vivian Sun is interested in the evolution of planetary surfaces and her work focuses on investigating Mars’ surface composition and geology to understand the implications for its evolution, aqueous history, and habitability. She is currently working to characterize the geology and mineralogy of the Mars-2020 landing site candidates and regularly participates in Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) science operations. Her expertise is in visible-near-infrared spectroscopy of aqueous minerals and geologic mapping of planetary surfaces. As a graduate student, she conducted a global survey of the aqueous mineralogy at central peaks of impact craters on Mars. Her doctoral work also integrated laboratory experiments and orbital observations to identify different types of opals on Mars.

  • Ph.D. (2017) Brown University, Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences
  • M.S. (2014) Brown University, Geological Sciences
  • B.S. with honors (2012) California Institute of Technology, Planetary Science

Research Interests

Mars, Spectroscopy, Remote Sensing, Aqueous Mineralogy, Planetary Geology, Mission Operations


Mars 2020 Icon Mars 2020
NASA's Mars 2020 mission will build upon many discoveries from the Curiosity Mars rover and the two Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity by taking the next key steps in our understanding of Mars' potential as a habitat for past or present life.

MSL - Mars Science Laboratory Icon MSL - Mars Science Laboratory

The Curiosity rover landed at Gale Crater on August 5, 2012. It is designed to search for and assess past or present habitable environments, i.e., those capable of supporting microbial life.

Professional Experience


  • 2017-present: JPL Postdoctoral Scholar, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • 2012-2017: Graduate Research and Teaching Assistant, Brown University
  • 2009-2012: Undergraduate Research and Teaching Assistant, Caltech/JPL

Professional Activities:

  • 2017-present: Mars 2020 science team member
  • 2012-present: Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) science team member
  • 2013: USGS Photogrammetric Processing of Planetary Stereo Imagery participant
  • 2017 - present: Review Panelist and External Reviewer for 4 NASA Review Panels
  • 2016 - present: Reviewer for Icarus, JGR Planets, Planetary and Space Science
  • 2015: JPL Planetary Science Summer School participant
  • 2013: Impact Cratering Short Course and Field School, Sudbury, Ontario participant

Selected Awards
  •          2017: Lunar and Planetary Institute Career Development Award
  •          2017: Brown University Dissertation Fellowship
  •          2016: American Geophysical Union (AGU) Student Travel Grant Recipient
  •          2016: SETI Institute LPSC Travel Grant Recipient
  •          2015: NASA Group Achievement Award MSL Science Operations Team
  •          2013: NASA Group Achievement Award MSL Science Operations Team
  •          2012: Brown University First Year Fellowship
  •          2010: Hugh F. and Andy Lou Colvin SURF Fellow

Selected Publications

5. Sun, V.Z., Stack, K.M., et al. Diagenetic concretions in the Murray Formation., Gale Crater, Mars. In preparation.

4. Sun, V.Z. and Milliken, R.E. (2018), Distinct Geologic Settings of Opal‐A and More Crystalline Hydrated Silica on Mars. In press at Geophysical Research Letters, doi: 10.1029/2018GL078494.

3. MacKenzie, S.M., Caswell, T.E., Phillips-Lander, C.M., Stavros, E.N., Hofgartner, J.D., Sun, V.Z., Powell, K.E., Steuer, C.J., O’Rourke, J.G., Dhaliwal, J.K., Leung, C.W.S., Petro, E.M., Wynne, J.J., Phan, S., Crismani, M., Krishnamurthy, A., John, K.K., DeBruin, K., Budney, C.J., and Mitchell, K.L. (2016), THEO Concept Mission:  Testing the Habitability of Enceladus’s Ocean. Advances in Space Research, 58, 1117-1137, doi:10.1016/j.asr.2016.05.037.

2. Sun, V.Z., and Milliken, R.E. (2015), Ancient and recent clay formation on Mars as revealed from a global survey of hydrous minerals in crater central peaks. Journal of Geophysical Research - Planets, 120, 2293-2332, doi: 10.1002/2015JE004918.

1. Sun, V.Z., and Milliken, R.E. (2014), The geology and mineralogy of Ritchey crater, Mars: Evidence for post-Noachian clay formation. Journal of Geophysical Research - Planets, 119, 810–836, doi: 10.1002/2013JE004602.

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