Recap of Geronimo Villanueva’s visit to CU on 4/4 – 4/5!

On April 4-5, CU Café and the Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences (APS) Department hosted two accomplished and well distinguished scholars, researcher Dr. Geronimo Villanueva from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and graduate student Hannah Kerner from Arizona State University (ASU).

Dr. Geronimo Villanueva’s research highlights include mapping the “heavy water” (deuterated water, D/H) content on Mars and the first detection of “heavy water” in a comet. He is also the group leader for future Mars studies by the James Webb Space Telescope, a co-investigator of the Exo-Mars Trace-Gas-Orbiter 2016 and has experience with three major space agencies, NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Deutschen Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), the German Aerospace Agency. Dr. Villanuava obtained his PhD from Max-Planck-Institut für Sonnensytemforschung and Freiburg University in Germany, his Master’s Certification from Clausthal Technical University in Germany and M.S.T.E in Atmospheric Radiometry from the Universidad Mendoza in Argentina.

During his visit, Dr. Villanueva met with APS and Geology faculty and students, researchers at the Southwest Research Institute (SWRI) and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), including members of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN Mission (MAVEN) satellite team. Dr. Villanueva hosted an informal lunchtime discussion with APS grad students and CU Café members about the basics goals of his research and his career path. He depicted his initial interests in science, how he started his own business, left Argentina to pursue a PhD in Germany and eventually ended up in the United States of America. He has had a fascinating journey thus far! One main takeaway was that while initially he had issues as a young Argentinian supervisor of German elders, they eventually developed great relationships after they got to know him. His point was that no matter where you come from or your background, we can all get along, work together, and eventually develop strong personal bonds. Dr. Villanueva gave a captivating APS Colloquium talk that articulated the importance of a significant methane (CH4) detection on Mars and how heavy water (HDO) to normal water (H2O) ratios can be used to extrapolate the water loss rate of Mars. Dr. Villanueva finished each of his two day visit with dinners with APS and CU Café members.

Dr. Villanueva and Hannah Kerner before her talk.

Dr. Villanueva brought along Hannah Kerner, a first year PhD graduate student at Arizona State University (ASU) who studies exploration systems design. Hannah is the current Executive Director and former NewSpace Conference Program Manager for the Space Frontier Foundation, former Chair of the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) and former instructor for a computer science course at her undergrad institution of University of North Carolina (UNC).

During her visit, Hannah presented her recent research on machine learning for autonomous image artifact recognition for future space exploration missions, the LunaH CubeSat mission and on gender bias in STEM. Hannah also led a lunch discussion on the various actions that can be taken to educate people on and to prevent future gender bias offenses. Topics ranged from small scale day-to-day lab work environment actions, to the university wide level. The discussion included professors and students in the CU Aerospace Engineering Sciences, APS students and CU Café members.

CU Café members with Dr. Villanueva and Hannah Kerner!

All in all, the visit went great! CU Café would like to thank everyone who contributed to making these series of events a tremendous success!

Did you miss the talk(s)? Never fear! Videos of both Dr. Villanueva’s and Hannah’s talks are below:


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