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Michael Malaska

Photo of Michael Malaska


4800 Oak Grove Drive
M/S 183-301 Pasadena, CA 91109


(818) 354-7652

Curriculum Vitae:

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Member of:

Laboratory Studies


Dr. Michael Malaska is a scientist in the Planetary Ices Group at NASA/JPL. He obtained his undergraduate degree in chemistry from MIT, his PhD in chemistry from UC Berkeley, and performed postdoctoral research in neurochemistry at Mayo Clinic Jacksonville in Florida. After a 20 year career in the pharmaceutical industry inventing new medicines, images of Titan’s alien surface sent down by the Cassini spacecraft ignited his passion in planetary science. He went from being an interested amateur, to a volunteer researcher, and ultimately changed his career to planetary science and astrobiology. His current research program combines laboratory simulation, spacecraft remote sensing, and field geology to explore and understand Saturn’s moon Titan. He has done field work in North Carolina, the Mojave Desert and Salton Sea in California, the Greenland Ice Sheet, and an extremophile sulfide cave in southern Mexico.


  • NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, NPP Senior Postdoctoral Fellow, 2012-2015
  • Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, postdoctoral position in Neurochemistry, 1991-1993.
  • University of California, Berkeley, Ph.D. in Chemistry, 1991.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, S.B. in Chemistry, 1986.

Professional Experience

  • NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA
    • Scientist, Planetary Ices Group, 2016 to present
    • Technologist, Planetary Ices Group, 2015-2016
    • Senior Postdoctoral Program Fellow, Planetary Ices Group, 2012-2015
  • Scynexis, Inc., Research Triangle Park, NC
    • Manager, Medicinal Chemistry 2007-2012
    • Research Investigator, Medicinal Chemistry, 2000-2007
  • Rhône-Poulenc Ag Company/Aventis CropScience Research Triangle Park, NC
    • Section Head, Discovery Chemistry, 1998-2000
  • Rhône-Poulenc Secteur Agro, Lyon, France
    • Ingenieur de Recherche, Chimie Combinatoire, 1995-1998
  • Rhône-Poulenc Ag Company, Research Triangle Park, NC
    • Associate Scientist, 1993-1995

Community Service

  • JPL Speakers Bureau 2012-present
  • Volunteer for NC Geological Survey 2012
  • JPL Solar System Ambassador 2011-2012

Research Interests

Exploration of Ocean Worlds of the Solar System (especially Titan)

Planetary dissolution geology (planetary karst)

Labyrinth terrains of Titan

Mapping of Saturn’s moon Titan

Terrestrial analogs of Titan environments

Surface geology of Titan (Aeolian, dissolution, fluvial processes)

Surface chemistry of Titan

Material properties of Titan’s organic solids and liquids

Ocean World geology and astrobiology

Europa’s surface composition and geology

Extremophile organisms

UV-Raman system for detection of organic and microbes in glacial ice

Planetary caves

Instrumentation for organic detection, identification, and quantitation

Selected Awards

  • JPL Voyager award, 2016

Selected Publications

  1. Neish, C., Lorenz, R., Turtle, E., Barnes, J., Trainer, M., Stiles, B., Kirk, R., Hibbitts, C., Malaska, M., accepted. Strategies for detecting biological molecules on Titan. Accepted for publication in Astrobiology.
  2. Maynard-Casely, H., Cable, M., Vu, T., Malaska, M., Choukroun, M., Hodyss, R., in press. Prospects for mineralogy on Titan. American Mineralogist. In press. doi: 10.2138/am-2018-6259.
  3. Méndez-Harper, J., McDonald, G.D., Dufek, J., Malaska, M.J., Burr, D.M., Hayes, A.G., McAdams, J., Wray, J.J. (2017). The Electrified Sands of Titan. Nature Geoscience 10, 260-265. doi:10.1038/ngeo2921.
  4. Malaska, M.J., Hodyss, R., Lunine, J.I., Hayes, A.G., Hofgartner, J.D., Hollyday, G., Lorenz, R.D., 2017. Laboratory measurements of nitrogen dissolution in Titan lake fluids. Icarus, 289, 94-105. doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2017.01.033.
  5. Le Gall, A., Malaska, M.J., Lorenz, R.D., Janssen, M.A., Tokano, T., Hayes, A.G., Mastroguiseppe, M., Lunine, J.I., Veyssière, G., Encrenaz, P., Karatekin, O., 2016. Composition, seasonal change, and bathymetry of Ligeia Mare, Titan derived from microwave thermal emission. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets 121, 233-251. doi: 10.1002/2015JE004920.
  6. Malaska, M.J., Lopes, R.M.C., Williams, D.A., Neish, C.D., Solominidou, A., Soderblom, J.M., Schoenfeld, A.M., Birch, S.P.D., Hayes, A.G., Le Gall, A., Janssen, M.A., Farr, T.G., Lorenz, R.D., Radebaugh, J.,Turtle, E.P., 2016. Geomorphological map of the Afekan Crater region, Titan: Terrain relationships in the equatorial and mid-latitude regions. Icarus 270, 130-161. doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2016.02.021.
  7. Malaska, M.J., Lopes, R.M., Hayes, A.G., Radebaugh, J., Lorenz, R.D., Turtle, E.P., 2016. Material transport map of Titan: the fate of dunes. Icarus 270, 183-196. doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2015.09.029.
  8. Lopes, R.M.C., Malaska, M.J., Solomonidou, A., Le Gall, A., Janssen, M.A., Neish, C.D., Turtle, E.P., Birch, S.P.D., Hayes, A.G., Radebaugh, J., Coustenis, A., Schoenfeld, A, Stiles, B.W., Kirk, R.L., Mitchell, K.L., Stofan, E.R., Lawrence, K.,J. and the Cassini RADAR Team, 2016. Nature, distribution, and origin of Titan’s Undifferentiated Plains. Icarus 270, 162-182. doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2015.11.034.
  9. Malaska, M.J., Lopes, R.M.C., Mitchell, K.L., Radebaugh, J., Verlander, T., Shoenfeld, A., 2017. Classification of Labyrinth Terrains on Titan. Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 48, The Woodlands, TX, March 2017. Abstract 2406.
  10. Malaska, M.J., Kelly, H.S., Boston, P.J., Spilde, M., Rosales-Lagarde, L., 2015. Diverse chemical environments in an extremophile sulfide cave system: Terrestrial analogs for a Europan ocean. Astrobiology Science Conference 2015, Chicago IL. April 2015. Abstract 7272.
  11. Malaska, M.J. and Hodyss, R., 2014. Dissolution of benzene, naphthalene, and biphenyl in a simulated Titan lake. Icarus 242, 74-81. doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2014.07.022.
  12. Malaska, M., Radebaugh, J., Barnes, J., Mitchell, K., 2012. Titan in a Fume Hood: Room-Temperature Simulation of a Titan Evaporite Playa Using a Multi-Component Mixture of Organic Compounds. Presented at the 43rd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, The Woodlands, TX, March 2012. Abstract 2139.
  13. Malaska, M., Radebaugh, J., Mitchell, K., Lopes, R., Wall, S., Lorenz, R., 2011. Surface dissolution model for Titan karst. First International Planetary Cave Research Workshop, Carlsbad, NM, October 2011. Abstract 8018.
  14. Malaska, M., Radebaugh, J., Lorenz, R., Mitchell, K., Farr, T., Stofan, E., 2010. Identification of Karst-like Terrain on Titan from Valley Analysis. Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 41, The Woodlands, TX, March 2010. Abstract 1544