Rosaly M.C. Lopes

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

2018 Ambassador Award Winner

Esteban G. Jobbágy, Rosaly M. C. Lopes, and Christopher M. Reddy received the 2018 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held 12 December 2018 in Washington, D. C. The award is in recognition of “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following area(s): societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”


Dr. Rosaly Lopes is one of the world’s leading planetary geologists, particularly in the area of volcanic processes relevant to satellites of the outer planets. In addition to her prolific scientific output on volcanic and resurfacing processes on Io and the geology of Mars and Titan, she has been an outstanding science ambassador throughout her career. For this she receives the 2018 AGU Ambassador Award.

A native of Brazil, she is considered a role model for Latinas, in particular, and an inspiration for numerous students from Brazil and other countries. Her outreach efforts have reached students and the public nationally and internationally and have been recognized by NASA and the American Astronomical Society, among others. Throughout her career, she has given many hundreds of interviews to media all over the world, appearing in some 20 television documentaries produced in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Brazil, and has presented outreach lectures on every continent, including Antarctica (at McMurdo Station). She has been extremely active in giving public and school talks throughout California and the United States, as well as in Brazil, Mexico, Morocco, Portugal, Singapore, and several other countries.

She has authored eight books, five at a popular level, and 28 articles in magazines such as Astronomy and Sky and Telescope. She has been recognized for her public outreach work by the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences Carl Sagan Medal in 2005, awarded to “recognize and honor outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public.” NASA awarded her the Exceptional Service Medal in 2007 with a citation “for providing planetary exploration knowledge to the public, leading an active volcanology research program, and providing a positive role model for women and minorities in science.” She often participates in events aimed at encouraging young women to pursue careers in science and was used by Sally Ride Science as a role model for her school materials, such as the book and poster What Do You Want to Be? She is featured in several other books aimed at schoolchildren and young people, such as Scholastic’s Extreme Science Jobs, as well as at the public, such as A World of Her Own: 24 Amazing Women Explorers and Adventurers by M. E. Ross (Chicago Review Press, 2014).

For her consistent public outreach effort throughout her scientific research career, Rosaly Lopes receives the 2018 AGU Ambassador Award.

—Susan W. Kieffer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


I am deeply grateful to AGU for this great honor, to Dr. Susan Kieffer for nominating me, and to colleagues who wrote supporting letters. I also wish to acknowledge the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech for being supportive of my education, outreach, and community service activities. It has been my honor to serve AGU and other scientific societies and to help advocate for our community.

Inspiring future generations should be the goal of every scientist. Whatever science we do, we should encourage future generations of scientists to surpass it. Our work is a stepping-stone for others to reach farther. For this reason, I remain deeply committed to helping students and early-career people in their own journey and to inspiring young people to follow their passion. An essential part of this commitment is public outreach. I make time to talk to the media, because there may be a young person somewhere who will be inspired by something they read in a newspaper, like I was, or see on television or online. I make time to carefully answer questions from schoolchildren, because they need to know that we value their curiosity. I love the science that I work on and the incredibly smart colleagues who surround me, and it is a pleasure to share knowledge with the younger generation. I realize how lucky I am to have a career in science and wish to help others achieve the same. Per audacia ad astra.

—Rosaly M. C. Lopes, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena