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Steve is an astrobiologist and geophysicist studying the workings of icy ocean worlds and lead for the Habitability team of JPL's Icy Worlds Astrobiology group, part of NASA's Astrobiology Institute. 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 the acting group supervisor for Planetary Chemistry & Astrobiology (3225).
Steve studies the interiors of icy bodies like Jupiter's moon, Europa, drawing primarily on expertise in the chemistry of fluids 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. He and the icy worlds team hope to determine chemical signatures of habitability that may make their way to their host body's surface. Steve works with field-deployable instruments for detecting signs of life, or biomarkers. This work may reveal clues to life's origin on Earth and elsewhere, and provides insight about possible analogues on Mars.