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Cecilia Leung

Photo of Cecilia Leung


4800 Oak Grove Drive

Pasadena, CA 91109

Curriculum Vitae:

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Member of:

Planetary And Exoplanetary Atmospheres


Dr. Cecilia Leung is a planetary scientist specializing in the present-day water cycle on Mars. Her research focuses on the atmospheric structure and dynamics of water, dust, and winds in the planetary boundary layer and in the lower atmosphere. Unlike the Earth, a significant percentage of Mars’ polar ice cap sublimates into water vapor every year, which gets carried by winds and deposited in other regions of the planet forming interesting clouds and surface features before circulating back to the poles and becomes incorporated into the polar ice caps once again. Dr. Leung’s research combines the use 3D numerical atmospheric models (global circulation models and mesoscale atmospheric models) and spacecraft data to study the global and regional atmospheric circulation of water, subsurface-atmospheric exchange processes, as well as coupling between the water and dust cycles. While earning her PhD from the Lunar and Planetary Lab at the University of Arizona, she worked on water-ice fogs in Valles Marieris, and modeling atmospheric influences on the formation of Recurring Slope Lineae. She also simulated regional dust storms in support of the Entry-Descent-and-Landing (EDL) of the InSight Mars Lander. 

Cecilia Leung is currently a NASA Postdoctoral Program fellow at JPL, collaborating with Dr. Leslie Tamppari and the Mars Climate Sounder team to understand the vertical distribution water vapor above the Phoenix Mars Lander and the Curiosity Rover landing sites.


  • Ph.D. in Planetary Sciences, University of Arizona, LPL (2020)
  • M.S. in Planetary Sciences, University of Arizona, LPL (2015)
  • Physics and Astronomy, York University (2009)

Professional Experience

  • NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow at JPL (2020-present)
  • Graduate Research Assistant, University of Arizona, LPL (2012-2020)
  • Graduate Certificate in Engineering Management (2015)

Research Interests

  • Regional Atmospheric Dynamics of Water on Mars
  • Climate & Habitability of Terrestrial Planets
  • Subsurface-Atmospheric exchange
  • Cloud microphysics and interannual variability
  • Aeolian processes (dust storms, dust devils, dust lifting)
  • GCM & mesoscale atmospheric modeling
  • Remote Sensing
  • Mission Design

Selected Awards

  • NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow (2019)
  • NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (2014-2017)
  • NASA JPL Planetary Science Summer School (2016)
  • NAI Summer School in Astrobiology (2014)
  • University of Arizona: Galileo Circle Scholarship (2014)
  • Canada NSERC Research Award (2012)

Selected Publications

  1. Leung, C. W.S., McEwen, Rafkin, S. C., Kahre M., Stillman D., Hanley J. (2020) Atmospheric Influences on Recurring Slope Lineae,in preparation for submission to  Geophys Res.
  2. Leung, C. W.S. (2020) The Regional Atmospheric Dynamics of Water on Mars. PhD Dissertation. University of Arizona
  3. Leung, C.W.S., Rafkin, S. C. (2017) The Regional Water Cycle and Water Ice Clouds in the Tharsis - Valles Marineris System. AGU. P23D-2752
  4. Rafkin S., Pla-Garcia, J., Leung C.W.S. (2017) Conditions and Dynamics within a Regional Mars Dust Storm. AGU P33I-03
  5. MacKenzie S. M., ... Leung C.W.S., ... & Karl L. Mitchell (2016) THEO concept mission: Testing the Habitability of Enceladus’s Ocean. Advances in Space Research.