Dragonfly Student & Early Career Investigator Program Cohort 3- Library to Interpret DragonCam Images

SES - Space Exploration Sector


Brief Job Description:


TITLE: Building A Library of Diagnostic Fracture Patterns and Erosional Morphologies for Interpretation of DragonCam Images

MENTORS: Dr. Ellen Stofan and Dr. Emily Martin, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

BACKGROUND: Information preserved in planetary surface features can be diagnostic of how they formed and how they have been modified through time. The properties of tectonic features such as faults (i.e., cracks or breaks in planetary surfaces) can be used to identify their modes of formation. In addition, fault interactions and relationships with other surface features can provide information on the relative timing of their formation. The suite of cameras on the Dragonfly rotorcraft will observe Titan’s surface fractures at a variety of scales. These data will help us to determine the relative timing of surface modification processes and will aid in the subsequent identification of terrains and surface features that may be ancient or that may have been recently modified.

DESCRIPTION: As evidenced by the global distribution of mountains and hills, Titan’s surface has been heavily modified by tectonic processes. However, detailed observations of individual faults and fractures have not yet been made. Building a catalog of fracture patterns and morphologies will provide resources for the analysis of Titan’s surface fractures at various scales and will help us to understand when they formed and how they have changed over time.

TASKS: During this project the student will develop catalogs of diagnostic fracture patterns and morphologies that are relevant to Titan. The information in these catalogs will aid the Dragonfly team in interpreting the history of terrains and surface features of interest on the icy moon. All tasks will draw upon examples from across the solar system, including Earth, and will be tailored to the Titan environment.

  1. Develop a catalog of diagnostic fracture patterns related to processes known or expected to be at work on Titan, such as impact cratering, volcanoes, and crater subsidence. The catalog will cover fracture patterns at multiple scales.
  2. Develop a catalog of diagnostic fracture morphologies related and relevant to the unique environments on Titan.  The catalog will cover fracture morphologies at various scales that are relevant to the Dragonfly imagers.

OUTCOME: The proposed catalogs will provide a resource for developing the geological history of various regions on Titan. This will allow the Dragonfly team to quickly identify the relative ages and the relative amounts of modification of specific features on Titan’s surface.

More information on the Dragonfly mission and instruments can be found in the videos at https://dragonfly.jhuapl.edu/Gallery/#Gallery



Academic Discipline Desired:

Graduate student in pursuing degree in Physical sciences, mathematics, material science, or engineering. Starting Masters or PhD program by Fall of 2022 

Required Skills:

A background in the physical sciences, mathematics, material science, or engineering and a willingness to learn geospatial software packages such as ArcGIS are required.

Desired Skills:

Experience or coursework in image processing and editing software may be helpful, but is not required.


APPLYING: When applying, each student should include in an attachment (1) a cover letter, (2) a curriculum vitae, CV, (3) the name and contact information for the prospective faculty advisor at their home institution, and (4) a 2-3 sentence statement from the prospective faculty advisor in which (s)he agrees to support the student, should they be selected to work on Dragonfly.

ELIGIBILITY: An intent of this program is to broaden mission participation; thus, it is intended for students who are not affiliated with, and whose faculty and/or research advisors are not involved with, Dragonfly or other spacecraft missions. Students who do not have a background in planetary science, the geosciences, atmospheric science, or their associated subfields are encouraged to apply.

  • Eligible students will have a 3.0 GPA
  • Eligible students must be U.S. citizens pursuing a master's or doctoral degree in the physical sciences, biological sciences, computer sciences, mathematics or engineering at a U.S. institution.
  • Applicants must have demonstrated ability to conduct independent research or development
  • Applicants must have excellent organizational and communication skills (written and oral)
  • In addition to identifying a mentor on the Dragonfly team, applicants must identify a faculty member at their home institution who can serve as a faculty mentor for the 2-year duration of their participation in the program
  • Can demonstrate that you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. To ensure the safety and well-being of the community, APL has established a policy requiring that all staff be vaccinated against COVID-19. All staff members must provide proof of full vaccination or have an approved medical or religious accommodation by their start date.

 Why work at APL?

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) brings world-class expertise to our nation’s most critical defense, security, space, science, and educational challenges. While we are dedicated to solving complex challenges and pioneering new technologies, what makes us truly outstanding is our culture. We offer a vibrant, welcoming atmosphere where you can bring your authentic self to work, continue to grow, and build strong connections with inspiring teammates. At APL, we celebrate our differences and encourage creativity and bold, new ideas.  APL’s campus is located in the Baltimore-Washington metro area. Learn more about our career opportunities at www.jhuapl.edu/careers.




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