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 Planetary Chemistry and Astrobiology (3225): People
Christopher M. Heirwegh's Picture
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
M/S 183-301
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena, CA 91109
Email Contact:
Curriculum Vitae:

Christopher M. Heirwegh

Chris is an applied physicist with expertise in X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy and ion-beam analytical techniques. His research at the University of Guelph in Canada supported the analysis of the alpha-particle x-ray spectrometer (APXS) data returned from Opportunity (Mars Exploration Rover – MER) and Curiosity (Mars Science Laboratory - MSL) rovers.

At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Chris’ role is Calibration Test Lead for the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL), selected for Mars 2020. His research focuses on developing quantification techniques to be used in extracting elemental abundances from PIXL micro-XRF measurements of the Martian soil and rock. Chris’ efforts are in support of the mission goals to learn about Mars’ early geological history and search for signs of past life.

Chris also has a leading role in developing a new type of XRF technology called the Pyroelectric Instrument for Rock Analysis (PIRANA) which utilizes thermally cycled piezo-electric crystals to produce a primary X-ray flux. He is directing his efforts both to enhance PIRANA’s X-ray emission flux and develop techniques to perform elemental analysis using PIRANA as an X-ray source.

For several years, Chris has served as a reviewer for the Journal of X-ray Spectrometry.

  • Ph.D. Experimental Physics, University of Guelph (2014)
  • M.Sc. Medical Physics, McMaster University (2009)
  • B.Sc. Physical Science (Honours program), McMaster University (2004)

Research Interests
  • XRF spectral analysis techniques and instrumentation
  • Quantitative elemental geo-chemistry
  • Semi-conductor detector physics and signal processing
  • Wavelength dispersive X-ray spectroscopy techniques
  • Particle induced X-ray emission (PIXE)

Professional Experience
  • JPL Postdoctoral Scholar, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2018 – present)
  • Caltech Postdoctoral Fellow, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2016 – 2108)
  • Course Lecturer, University of Guelph (2015)
  • Postdoctoral Fellow in Physics, University of Guelph (2014 – 2016)
  • Research Assistant (doctorate), University of Guelph (2009 – 2014)
  • Research Assistant (masters), McMaster University (2006 - 2009)
  • Teaching assistant, McMaster and U of Guelph (2004 – 2012)
  • Summer Research Assistant, Juravinski Cancer Centre (2003)

Selected Awards
  • Invited Talk – 67th Denver X-ray Conference, Colorado, Aug. 2018
  • Best Poster Award – 2nd place, 14th PIXE conference, Somerset West, South Africa, 2015
  • Invited speaker - Josef Stefan Institute, Slovenia, Sept. 2014
  • Ontario Graduate Scholarship, 3 years, Physics, Guelph, 2009 - 2012
  • Graduate Student Scholarship, 2 years, Medical Physics, McMaster, 2006 – 2008
  • Entrance Scholarship, Medical Physics, McMaster, 2006

Selected Publications
  • Heirwegh C M, Elam W T, Flannery D T, Allwood A C, “An empirical derivation of the X-ray optic transmission profile used in calibrating the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) for Mars 2020,” Accepted in Powder Diffraction Journal, and DXC Conference Proceedings, Advances in X-Ray Analysis, 61 (2018).
  • Heirwegh C M, Petric M, Fazinić S, Kavčič M, Božičević Mihalić I, Schneider J, Zamboni I, and Campbell J L, “Multiple ionization X-ray satellites of Mg, Al and Si in alpha-particle PIXE,” Article submitted to Instrum. Meth. B.
  • Campbell J L, Ganly B, Heirwegh C M and Maxwell J A, “Separation of detector non-linearity issues and multiple ionization satellites in alpha-particle PIXE,” Instrum. Meth. B. 414 (2018) 38 – 44.
  • Flannigan E L, Heirwegh C M and Campbell J L, “Role of the mass attenuation coefficient database in standardization of a silicon drift X-ray detector for PIXE analysis,” X-Ray Spectrom. 47 (2018) 63 - 71.
  • Campbell J L, Heirwegh C M and Ganly B, “Non-linearity issues and multiple ionization satellites in the PIXE portion of spectra from the Mars alpha particle X-ray spectrometer,” Nucl. Instrum. Meth. B 383 (2016) 143 – 151.
  • Heirwegh C M, Campbell J L and Czamanske G K, “Refinement of of major- and minor-element PIXE analysis of rocks and minerals,” Nucl. Instrum. Meth. B 336 (2016) 40 - 50.
  • Heirwegh C M, Pradler I and Campbell J L, 2013 “An accuracy assessment of photo-ionization cross-section databases for 1-2 keV x-rays in light elements using PIXE,” J. Phys. B: At. Mol. Opt. Phys. 46 (2013) 185602.

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