College of Science

Debbie Hernandez

Debbie Hernandez
Debbie posing in front of former astronaut suits at the NASA Ames Exploratorium Guest Visitor Center during the IRIS Launch

Debbie is a geology major with an emphasis in Geophysics and with a minor in Math. Her love for the celestial sky took root at the impressionable age of 12 after receiving her first telescope. She pointed it to the night sky looked through it and immediately fell in love. From that point forward, her future had been written in the stars so to speak and she has continued to pursue her passion through the CAMPARE program at NASA Ames research facility.

Data gathering of Cross-Transect Profiles at different locations along the gullies on Corozal Crater on Mars.
Data gathering of Cross-Transect Profiles at different locations along the gullies on Corozal Crater on Mars.

Over the course of the 2013 summer, I was given the wonderful opportunity to work at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. Through a previous summer internship at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, I was able to continue my work on the High Resolution Imaging (HiRISE) team on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

During my time spent at NASA Ames, I worked alongside planetary geologist Dr. Viginia Gulick , researching and analyzing geologic formations known as “gullies” for evidence of liquid water on the Martian surface. Gullies are terrestrial geologic processes in which channels are created, largely in part due to water erosion. Analysis of these channels created on crater walls, and their fluvial aprons can provide insight into a past (or geologically current) liquid life on Mars.

Jill Tarter admiring Debbie’s space pants as she deemed them oddly relevant to the work being done by the Allen Array Telescopes
Jill Tarter admiring Debbie’s space pants as she deemed them oddly relevant to the work being done by the Allen Array Telescopes

Aside from work, the summer interns were able to take in the sights and sounds of Northern California.  During a weeklong trip to Hat Creek Observatory, we were able to get a crash course in astrophysics by the one and only Jill Tarter.  At the observatory, we were able to control the Allen Array Telescopes as we tracked a satellite in orbit.  We were also able to take a couple of days to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park where we observed extremophiles that thrive under such intense conditions.  These microbial lives can help us understand how life could exist elsewhere in the universe through the field of astrobiology. 

Overall, this was a great chance to once again, continue chasing my dreams off into the stars.  Hopefully, I get to continue working on these types of projects that will one day lead to a career in planetary science of my own!