Chad Harper '18 Researched Planetary Science Theory

January 29, 2019

Through the Wilson Center, Chad Harper ’18 undertook research on planetary science theory at the California Institute of Technology for several weeks in January. He was able to do work with acclaimed planetary science professor Dave Stevenson on theorizing an expression for a new stressing mechanism on Europa. This research may be used by those planning the 2030 Europa clipping mission to predict when and where plumes will erupt on the surface of the planet.

Harper hopes to start a career as a planetary scientist after graduation. This experience enabled him to learn important techniques in the field that he would not have been able to study at Grinnell and to gain valuable hands-on experience in the researching and publishing duties of a professional planetary scientist.

Coming out of the experience, Harper has a clearer image of the nature of leadership and innovation in the field. He notes that “This was an opportunity to see an idea I had through to the end.” In the process, he learned important lessons about failure and innovation, noting that one of his major takeaways from the experience is that “one must be very comfortable with starting over when results do not go as expected.”

Now, back on campus, Harper has shared his experience and insight with his fellow students at STEM Career Community meetings, Black Students in STEM meetings, as well as well as in physics seminars and CSTE(M)2 meetings.

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