Dr. Michelle Selvans

Planetary Geophysicist

  • Center for Earth and Planetary Studies

Michelle Selvans

Michelle Selvans is interested in near-surface structure and deformation processes of solid bodies in the solar system. She is currently studying the history of faulting (tectonics) on Mercury, and climate-controlled structure of the north polar ice cap on Mars. She has been at CEPS since late 2011.

While obtaining her MS and PhD in geophysics at the California Institute of Technology, Michelle investigated rift zones on the Earth and internal structure of the north polar ice cap on Mars, using a variety of remote sensing, field geophysics, and modeling techniques. She mapped the gross internal structure of the north polar cap on Mars (using MARSIS, i.e., orbital radar data), determined the deep crustal velocity structure at the northwesternmost extent of the West Antarctic Rift System (using marine seismic reflection and refraction data), and constrained intracontinental rifting rates in Mexico (using GPS data). Michelle enjoyed going into the field in pursuit of these interests and those of her colleagues, including being a geophysics watchstander for five weeks on the research ship Nathaniel B. Palmer in the Ross Sea (Antarctica).

Michelle completed her BA in physics and sociology, with a minor in planetary science, at the University of Colorado at Boulder. As an undergraduate, she spent three years studying the tectonics of Europa, a moon of Jupiter. She investigated the deformation history of its surface by modeling the changing stress patterns in the icy shell and correlating them with mapped linear features.

Michelle is always honored to share her wonderment for the universe with others. She has taught Introductory Geology, assisted in teaching geophysics field and theory classes, and helped train K-12 teachers in Earth Science content. She also created and taught a workshop on plate tectonics to 6th-8th grade girls, and has enjoyed sharing her fascination with and knowledge of our solar system with all ages of the public here in the museum.

When she isn't thinking about Earth and its neighbors in space, Michelle loves being active outdoors (especially backpacking), as well as dancing and being a homebody (gardening, cooking, reading, playing games, and playing music).

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