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“We are doing such amazing science, such amazing engineering, and honestly awe-inspiring exploration that I can hardly help snapping up every opportunity I can to be an ambassador to the public. I want you to be as excited about what we’re doing as we are.”
Veronica (Cavallo) Pinnick '04, Goddard Space Flight Center

University Communications

NASA’s Pinnick to speak at Minot State

MINOT, N.D. – Minot State University alumna Veronica (Cavallo) Pinnick ’04 will be featured as the first Minot State Alumni Speaker Series guest, giving a talk at the Cyril Moore Auditorium Room 16 Jan. 17 at 7 p.m.

Pinnick, a research associate specializing in scientific instrumentation at the Goodard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., will give a talk intended for all audiences titled, “Searching for the Fingerprints of Life in our Solar System using Mass Spectrometry.” The event is free and open to the public.

“I take education and public outreach seriously, and take every opportunity I can to spread the word about what we scientists and engineers are doing with your tax dollars,” Pinnick said. “We are doing such amazing science, such amazing engineering, and honestly awe-inspiring exploration that I can hardly help snapping up every opportunity I can to be an ambassador to the public.  I want you to be as excited about what we’re doing as we are.”

Pinnick finished work on a highly advanced mass spectrometer for the Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer (MOMA) that will be sent into space in 2020 as part of the ExoMars Rover’s mission to Mars in June. She is transitioning off planetary science missions into two missions, Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) and Plankton, Aerosol, Ocean Ecosystem (PACE). Information on LISA and PACE can be accessed via NASA’s website.

After graduating with a chemistry degree from Minot State, she attended Texas A&M where she completed a doctorate in analytical chemistry. It was at Texas A&M that she studied under renowned professor Emile Schweikert, a leading researcher in time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Pinnick was tasked with developing instrumentation that could measure nano-particle materials.

Upon completing her Ph.D., she had offers from major companies around the country including a lucrative offer from tech giant, Intel. Instead Pinnick took a shot on a post-doctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. Under the guidance of professor Bob Cotter, Pinnick had a chance to work on the development of a mass spectrometer for NASA. 

The hour-long address will include topics:

  • Sample Analysis on Mars (SAM) instrument on the Curiosity rover currently on the Red Planet
  • Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer (MOMA) which will be included on the European Space Agency’s ExoMars rover, scheduled to launch summer 2020
  • Exploration of the ocean worlds of Europa and Titan
  • Field work done on Earth (in Greenland and Chile)

Pinnick is excited for the opportunity to return to Minot State.

“I loved my time at MSU, both in the chemistry department and also in the honors program,” Pinnick said. “I am so happy to be coming back home to talk about my career and the path I took to get where I am — MSU had so much to do with that!”

For more information on Pinnick, see Fall 2018’s CONNECTIONS magazine cover story, “PINNICK PLAYS KEY ROLE IN FUTURE EXPLORATION OF MARS,” and for more information on the event, contact Minot State assistant professor of chemistry Chris Heth via EMAIL.  Parking is free for the event. To locate parking and Cyril Moore Hall, see the MAP.

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Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 12/27/18



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