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Steven Vance

Photo of Steven Vance


4800 Oak Grove Drive
M/S 321-560

Pasadena, CA 91109





Curriculum Vitae:

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Member of:

Planetary Interiors and Geophysics

Group Supervisor


Steve is an astrobiologist and geophysicist studying the workings of icy ocean worlds. After obtaining his PhD in Geophysics and Astrobiology from the University of Washington, in Seattle, Dr. Vance came to JPL as a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow. He joined JPL as a staff scientist in 2010. He is currently supervisor for Planetary Interiors and Geophysics Group (3226).

Steve studies the interiors of icy bodies like Jupiter's moon, Europa, drawing primarily on expertise in the chemistry and thermodynamics of materials at high pressures. Steve's work address questions of ocean composition, dynamics, and habitability through simulations of icy world ocean chemistry in the laboratory, coupled with theoretical models of fluid circulation in deep oceans. Major aims of this work are to be able to determine chemical signatures of habitability that may make their way to their host body's surface, and to enable joint inversions of spacecraft geophysical measurements to understand interior composition, structure, and dynamics.


  • 2001–2007 Ph.D., University of Washington, Seattle, Geophysics and Astrobiology.
  • 1996–2000 B.S., University of California, Santa Cruz, Physics (with honors).

Professional Experience

  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2007-present)
    • Acting Group Supervisor, Planetary Chemistry and Astrobiology Group
      (2018 - Present)
    • Research Scientist, Planetary Chemistry and Astrobiology Group
      (2010 - Present)
    • Caltech Postdoc (2009 - 2010)
    • NASA Postdoctoral Fellow (2007 - 2009)
  • University of Washington, Seattle (2001-2007)
    • Research Assistant
  • Canadian Arctic Shelf Exchange Study (2003-2004)
    • Research Associate
  • Institut für Planetologie, Münster (2003)Research Associate
  • UCO/Lick Observatory (2001)
    • Research Associate
  • University of California, Santa Cruz (1998-2001)
    • Research Assistant

Community Service

  • Participant, NASA Roadmap for Ocean Worlds, 2016
  • Secretary, AOGS Planetary Sciences Section, 2014-present
  • Contributor, Astrobiology Strategy development (, 2013-2015
  • NASA Panel Reviewer, 2009, 2014-2017
  • NASA Panel Review Chair, 2016
  • Organizer, OP Colloquium Series (, 2008-2011
  • Participant, AAS Planetary Science Congressional Visits, April 2012
  • Participant, AGU Congressional Geosciences Visits, September 2008

Selected Awards

  • JPL Voyager Award, "For significant contributions to the Europa Mission," 2016
  • JPL Voyager Award, "For refurbishments of the Planetary Ices Laboratory," 2015
  • JPL Group Achievement Award, "For significantly advancing our understanding of the habitability, survivability, and detectability of life on icy worlds through transdisciplinary astrobiological investigations," 2015
  • NASA Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2007-2009
  • Misch Fellowship, 2007
  • Stephens Graduate Support Grant, 2006
  • National Science Foundation IGERT/NASA Astrobiology Institute Grant, 2002-2005
  • Research support, University of Washington Alumni Grant, Winter/Spring, 2003-2004
  • Elks National Foundation Scholarship, 1996-2000 / Kern County Elks Scholarship,1996
  • Howard and Mamie Nichols Scholarship, 1996-2000
  • Texaco Foundation Scholarship, 1996-2000
  • David Wayne Christensen Memorial Scholarship, 1997
  • Kleines Deutschland Scholarship, 1996

Selected Publications

  • Vance, S. D., 2018. The Habitability of Icy Ocean Worlds in the Solar System. In: Deeg H., Belmonte J. (eds) Handbook of Exoplanets. Springer, Cham, 1-23.
  • Vance, S. D., S. Kedar, M. P. Panning, S. C. Stähler, B. G. Bills, R. D. Lorenz, H.-H. Huang, W. T. Pike, J. C. Castillo, P. Lognonne, V. C. Tsai, A. R. Rhoden, 2018. Vital Signs: Seismology of Icy Ocean Worlds. Astrobiology, 18(1) 37-53.
  • Vance, S. D., M. P. Panning, S. Stähler, F. Cammarano, B. G. Bills, S. Kedar, C. Sotin, W. T. Pike, R. Lorenz, V. Tsai, H.-H. Huang, J. M. Jackson, B. Banerdt, 2018. Geophysical investigations of habitability in ice-covered ocean worlds, JGR-Planets, 123., archiv:1705.03999
  • Stähler, S., M. P. Panning, S. D. Vance, R. Lorenz, M.van Driel, T. Nissen-Meyer, S. Kedar, 2018. Seismic wave propagation in icy ocean worlds, JGR-Planets, 123. arxiv:1705.03500
  • Panning, M. P., S. C. Stähler, H.-H. Huang, S. D. Vance, S. Kedar, V. Tsai, W. T. Pike, R. D. Lorenz, 2018. The seismic noise environment of Europa, JGR-Planets, 123. arxiv:1705.03424
  • Zhu, P., G. E. Manucharyan, A. F. Thompson, J. C. Goodman, S. D. Vance, 2017. The influence of meridional ice transport on Europa’s ocean stratification and heat content. Geophys. Res. Lett., 44, doi:10.1002/2017GL072996.
  • Aglyamov, Y., D. M. Schroeder, S. D. Vance, 2017,. Bright prospects for radar detection of Europa’s ocean. Icarus, 281, 334-337.
  • Romero-Wolf, A., D. M. Schroeder, P. Ries, B. G. Bills, C. Naudet, B. R. Scott, R. Treuhaft, S. Vance, 2016. Prospects of Passive Radio Detection of a Subsurface Ocean on Europa with a Lander. Planetary and Space Sciences, 15, 118-121, 10.1016/j.pss.2016.06.010.
  • Vance, S. D. K.P. Hand, R. T. Pappalardo, 2016. Geophysical controls of chemical disequilibria in Europa and other wet, rocky worlds, Geophy. Res. Lett., 10.1002/2016GL068547.
  • Vance, S. D. T. Loerting, J. Stern, M. Kropf, B. Journaux, C. Jamieson, M. L. Cable. and O. Bollengier, 2016. Solids and fluids at low temperatures, in Low Temperature Materials and Mechanisms, CRC Press.
  • Castillo, J. C., Y. Bar-Cohen, S. D. Vance, M. Choukroun, H. J. Lee, X Bao, M. Badescu, S. Sherritt, M. G. Trainer, and S. Getty, 2016. Sample handling and instruments for the in-situ exploration of ice-rich planets, in Low Temperature Materials and Mechanisms, CRC Press.
  • Romero-Wolf, A., S. Vance, F. Maiwald, E. Heggy, P. Ries, K. Liewer, 2015. A Passive Probe for Subsurface Oceans and Liquid Water in Jupiter’s Icy Moons, Icarus, 248, 463-477.
  • Vance, S., M. Bouffard, M. Choukroun, and C. Sotin. Ganymede’s Internal Structure Including Thermodynamics of Magnesium Sulfate Oceans in Contact with Ice. 2014 Planetary and Space
    Science, 96, 62-70.
  • Russell, M. J., L. M. Barge, R. Bhartia, D. Bocanegra, P. J. Bracher, E. Branscomb, R. Kidd, S. McGlynn, D. H. Meier, W. Nitschke, T. Shibuya, S. Vance, L. White, and I. Kanik. 2014. The drive to life on wet and icy worlds. Astrobiology, 14(4), 308-343.
  • Pappalardo, R. T., S. Vance, F. Bagenal, B. G. Bills D. L. Blaney, D. D. Blankenship, W. B. Brinckerhoff, J. E. P. Connerney, K. P. Hand, T. M. Hoehler, J. S. Liesner, W. S. Kurth, M. A. McGrath, M. T. Mellon, J. M. Moore, G. W. Patterson, L. M. Prockter, D. A. Senske, B. E. Schmidt, E. L. Shock, D. E. Smith, K. M. Soderlund. Science potential from a Europa lander. Astrobiology, 13(8), 740-773, 2013.
  • Etiope, G., S. Vance, L.E. Christensen, J.M. Marques, R. da Costa, I, 2013. Abiotic methane in serpentinized ultramafic rocks in Portugal. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 45, 12-16.
  • Vance, S. and J.M. Brown, 2013. Equations of State for Aqueous MgSO4 to 800 MPa at Temperatures from -20 to 100 oC and Concentrations to 2.5 mol kg−1 from Sound Velocities with Applications to Icy Ocean Worlds. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 110, 176-189.
  • Allwood A., D. Beaty, D. Bass, C. Conley, G. Kminek, M. Race, S. Vance, and F. Westall, 2013. Conference Summary: Life Detection in Extraterrestrial Samples. Astrobiology 13, 203-216.
  • Vance, S., L. E. Christensen, C. R. Webster and K. Sung, 2011. Volatile Organic Sulfur Compounds as Biomarkers Complementary to Methane: Infrared Absorption Spectroscopy of CH3SH Enables in Situ Measurements on Earth and Mars. Planetary and Space Science 59, 299-303.
  • Vance, S., 2011. Icy Satellite Processes in the Solar System: A Plurality of Worlds. Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022, Appendix B.
  • Sohl, F., M. Choukroun, J. Kargel, J. Kimura, R. Pappalardo, S. Vance and M. Zolotov, 2010. Subsurface Water Oceans in Icy Satellites: Chemical Composition and Exchange Processes. Space Science Reviews, Europlanet Volume on Icy Satellites 1-26, DOI 10.1007/s11214-010-9646-y.
  • Vance, S. and J.M. Brown, 2009. Sound Velocities and Thermodynamic Properties of Water to 700 MPa and -20 to 100 oC. JASA 127(1), 174-180.
  • Vance, S. and J. Goodman, 2009. Oceanography of an Ice-covered Moon. EUROPA, University of Arizona Press.
  • Som, S. M., Z. R. Adam and S. Vance, 2009. Use the Water: In-Situ Resource Technology for Icy-Surface Landers. Acta Astronautica 64, 1006-1010.
  • Vance, S., and J.M. Brown 2008. The Icy Satellite Interior Simulator, an Apparatus for Optical Measurements in Aqueous Systems in the range -20 to 100 oC and 700 MPa. Rev. Sci. Inst.79(1), 105105.
  • Vance, S., J. Harnmeijer, J. Kimura, H. Hussmann, B. de Martin and J. M. Brown, 2007. Hydrothermal Systems in Small Ocean Planets. Astrobiology 7(6), 987-1005.
  • Vance, S. 2005. Exploration & Characterization of Europa. in The Astrobiology Primer: An Outline of General Knowledge—Version 1, 2006. Eds. L.J. Mix, J.C. Armstrong, A.M. Mandell, A.C. Mosier, J. Raymond, S.N. Raymond, F.J. Stewart, K. von Braun, and O. Zhaxybayeva Astrobiology 6, 735-813.
  • Vance, S. and J. M. Brown, 2005. Layering and Double-Diffusion Style Convection in Europa’s Ocean. Icarus 177, 506-514.