Associate Professor of Astronomy & Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Dr. Britney Schmidt is an Associate Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University, as well as in the Earth & Atmospheric Sciences. From 2013-2021, she was a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
She and her team develop robotic tools and instruments as well as use spacecraft to study planets. Exploring Earth’s ice shelves and glaciers and the oceans beneath them, Schmidt’s team helps to capture the impacts of changing climate on the Earth, while understanding processes that might be ongoing on Ocean Worlds like Jupiter’s moon Europa. Schmidt’s long history of NASA spacecraft involvement includes the Dawn mission, which orbited the protoplanet Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres, and the upcoming Europa Clipper mission, planned to launch in 2024. She has also been involved with studies of missions to land on Europa and Enceladus, and the LUVOIR Space Telescope (now Habitable Worlds Observer).
She has conducted eight field seasons in Antarctica and two in the Arctic, leading large science and technology programs. Her team’s most recent projects have deployed the Icefin vehicle, built in her lab, to explore underneath the McMurdo and Ross Ice Shelves (NASA project RISE UP) and Thwaites Glacier, one of the fastest changing glaciers in Antarctica (NERC-NSF ITGC). Their most recent results were published in Nature in February, 2023.
Her team is also leading a campaign, the Pingo SubTerranean Aquifer Reconnaissance and Reconstruction (Pingo STARR), to explore ground ice and water in Pingos in the Arctic. These ice-cored hills are part of the fast-changing Arctic permafrost landscape, but also represent examples of possible features on Mars and asteroids that could provide future water resources for humans, which the team will explore with candidate instruments for future robotic lander and human exploration.
Schmidt is also leading the Oceans Across Space and Time program, a project to understand how salts record planetary and ecosystem change, which could help us detect life and records of it on other worlds.
She received a B.S. in Physics from the University of Arizona, and M.S. and Ph.D. in Geophysics and Space Physics from the University of California, Los Angeles.