Profile: EAPS Graduate Student Yodit Tewelde
Yodit Tewelde is a graduate student in the Planetary Science Program in EAPS. Childhood planetarium visits and a love of reading science fiction novels, meant Yodit always suspected space or space exploration was somewhere in a her future.
In High School, while she was trying to decide whether to go into science or engineering, she became involved in MITES (the Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science program, http://web.mit.edu/mites), coming to MIT for a summer to find out what life at MIT was like. There she fell in love with the engineering class and decided to come to AeroAstro to do her undergrad. It was following a UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, http://web.mit.edu/urop) in EAPS that she decided to switch back towards science, returning to EAPS for grad. school.
In this interview, Yodit recounts the research she has been doing during the first 2 years of her Ph.D. studies. The first project concerns mapping the "Ghost Craters of Mars". The northern lowlands of Mars, which make up about a third of its surface, are 4 to 5 kms lower than the southern highlands and are thought to have been created by a giant impact. Within that impact however there are numerous smaller "ghost craters" or craters that, over time, have become filled in. Yodit's work involves trying to figure out the volume of fill and what it is made out of, enabling her to infer what the surface might have looked like in the past: to learn about such things as ancient shorelines and the evolution of Mars as a whole.
The second project, with EAPS assistant professor Taylor Perron, concerns Titan (the 6th moon of Saturn) chosen, as Yodit explains, because, other than Earth, it is the only place we know of in our Solar System with a dense nitrogen atmosphere. It is also the only place (other than Earth) within the solar system currently known to hold liquid on its surface, although on Titan that liquid is methane not water and instead of cutting through rock like it does on Earth, on Titan the liquid methane cuts through water ice. Yodit studies surface drainage patterns created in such an environment, comparing them with similar patterns on Earth, to provide new insights into surface conditions on Titan.