New Faculty: Britney Schmidt

Britney Schmidt

Associate Professor, Astronomy, Earth & Atmospheric Science

Academic focus:
My team and I work on ice and water, pretty much wherever it is found on this planet and others. Our work involves the use of spacecraft data, telescopes, theory and other sources of inspiration, especially Earth. In particular, we work on understanding icy environments on Earth, especially ice shelves, both to capture the effects of climate change and to inform us about the processes that might be going on inside the icy ocean moons of the outer solar system like Europa. We also build technology to explore our planet. Icefin is our groups’s home-built robotic oceanographer. We use Icefin to get under ice shelves and into ice covered environments for which we have little or no data, and develop new instruments to explore and understand. We hope advancements with the vehicle will provide a road map to future exploration of the ocean of Europa.

Current research project: 
We are working on several exciting projects. Icefin is heading back to Antarctica  this season on an NSF grant working with two New Zealand teams studying sea ice, ice shelves and the ocean in the Ross Sea. Pingo STARR is a field program that will take us to the Canadian Arctic to understand how freezing water builds mountains in permafrost on Earth as well as possibly Mars and asteroids—clues to where we might find water one day for human explorers. We’re leading a project to understand how salts record planetary and ecosystem change on planets that could hep us detect life on other worlds. And we’re part of work on NASA’s Europa Clipper mission that will launch to Europa in just a few years, to name a few!

Previous positions: 

  • Associate professor, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Tech, 2019-2021
  • Assistant professor, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Tech, 2013-2019

Academic background

  • Ph.D., Geophysics and space physics, University of California, Los Angeles, 2010 
  • B.S., Physics, University of Arizona, 2005

Last book read:
"War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy

In your own time/when not working:
I love horses, scuba diving, heavy metal, and cars!

Courses you’re most looking forward to teaching:
Anything that encourages scientists and engineers together, as well as general  courses on planetary, earth science and astronomy so I get to meet students from across campus. I started as a non-science major in college, so I always enjoy sharing this kind of science with everyone, it’s really inspiring. 

What most excites you about Cornell:
The interdisciplinarity at Cornell is amazing! I am so looking forward to new collaborations with my amazing new colleagues in astronomy, earth & atmospheric science and engineering. I’m excited by being back on a campus with so much great work in humanities and arts. As an animal person who was involved in agriculture, I’m also excited about the CALS programs and just being around all the innovation. And the dairy bar!!

Twitter handle/blog URL:
@icefinrobot and @planetaryhabitabilty

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