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Photo of Jeff Johnson
   Jeff Johnson
   Research Geologist
U.S. Geological Survey
Flagstaff, Arizona
United States Of America
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High School: Traverse City Senior High School, Traverse City,  MI
B.S., Geological Sciences, with Honors, University of Michigan
M.S., Geosciences, University of Arizona
Ph.D., Geosciences, University of Arizona

Background Information
Jeff was born in Baltimore, MD but grew up in Detroit, MI and went to high school in the snowy northern Michigan town of Traverse City. After high school, he moved to Ann Arbor to pursue a degree in geology at the University of Michigan, where he studied heat flow from the Earth’s interior. During the summer following graduation from UM, Jeff worked at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Flagstaff, AZ as a NASA Planetary Geology and Geophysics Undergraduate Research Program intern. There he studied radar images of Venus acquired by the Soviet Venera spacecraft to make geological maps. He then moved to the southwest to pursue a Master’s Degree in planetary geology at the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. There he ventured into astronomy by using telescopes to study the composition of the Moon in support of a research program investigating the feasibility of using the lunar surface for resources such as water, hydrogen, and helium. Jeff continued his studies by pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Arizona, just in time for the Magellan spacecraft’s arrival at Venus. Jeff used the detailed radar images and surface property maps provided by Magellan to study the physical properties of the long, lava-like outflows that emanated from many venusian impact craters. He also published the first USGS geologic map of a region on Venus constructed from Magellan data.

After finishing his Ph.D., the dearth of active spacecraft missions made jobs in the field a scare commodity. Jeff was ready to accept a position with terrestrial global climate change researchers near Washington, D.C., until a professor at the University of Hawaii whom Jeff had met during his lunar research days offered him a position at his laboratory. The catch was that the job wasn’t specifically related to planetary science, although the UH group certainly had an active planetary research program. Instead, the postdoctoral position was funded by a program whose goal was to develop an infrared imaging system to detect buried landmines. The job entailed a combination of field and laboratory work to study different soils using infrared spectrometers. Although this wasn’t necessarily planetary science, Jeff learned a lot about infrared remote sensing. It didn’t hurt that he found a spectacular house on a hilltop on Oahu to rent for the two years he lived in Hawaii.

As his two-year stint in Hawaii came to a close, Jeff was selected as the first Eugene M. Shoemaker Planetary Geology and Geophysics Fellow at the USGS in Flagstaff, AZ. As he left the islands to start that position, the Mars Pathfinder mission was on its way to Ares Valles. USGS involvement in the mission allowed him to participate in analysis of the multispectral image data from Pathfinder. As Pathfinder wound down, Jeff’s research turned toward laboratory work and computer modeling to study the effects of dust coatings and impact shock effects on visible and infrared spectroscopy. Some of this work continues to include analysis of Pathfinder data, but the additional data from Pancam and Mini-TES on the Mars Exploration Rovers should keep him busy for at least the next few years.

Contributions to Mars Exploration

Jeff is involved in preparing a proposal for mast-mounted remote sensing instruments for the MSL mission. [more contributions ...]
Personal Reflections

When you have difficulty finding a job directly related to your goals, search for jobs where you will learn things that are relevant to your goals. You will learn some additional and useful skills that will undoubtedly help you land that dream job when it becomes available. [more personal reflections ...]