STEM Shoutout: Dr. Jin Zhang

Women in STEM award winner will study Mars geological interior

Dr. Jin Zhang, an assistant professor at UNM’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences is among the 2020 Women in STEM winners for her proposal to study Mars interior and grow knowledge of the planet’s geological history.


The Women in STEM awards are hosted by Advance at UNM in collaboration with the UNM Office of Academic Affairs. The WIS awards, now in their fifth year, have totaled more than $266,000 to date. 


Zhang’s proposal, “Plate tectonics of the past and current day Mars: insights from the high pressure-temperature studies of Martian mantle candidate rocks,” will focus on studying the chemical, physical and geometrical factors that control the convection styles of the Martian interior.


Mars has been considered a desirable space hover and a popular human destination for exploration for decades.


“Understanding the geological processes that happen on the surface of Mars is quite important for any of these future possible missions,” Zhang said.


Zhang and her team will study the Martian interior from a combined experiment and numerical perspective to better understand the planet.


“We want to check how the Martian rocks are going to behave under extreme pressure and temperature conditions in the Martian interior,” Zhang said. 


Zhang’s research has mainly focused on high-pressure mineral physics and petrology on Earth, but the WIS award will help expand her research and further her career development.


“It’s quite important to me because the funding of this proposal will help extend my research area from Earth focus to other planets within the Solar System.”


Zhang also plans to use the obtained experimental results from this study to serve as the basis for a future NASA proposal.