Women of Venus Express

Venus is the only planet in the solar system, named after a female mythological deity. Its unique characteristics in many ways reflect the multi-faceted Venus Express team. Additionally, the feminine qualities of the planet enable an exceptional opportunity to appeal to young women who may wish to enter science, engineering and technological careers (STEM). The Venus Express team is particularly pleased to highlight the career paths and interests of the exceptional women who exemplify the uniqueness and brilliance of the planet Venus!

Janet G. Luhmann

Janet Luhmann

A veteran of many space missions, Dr. Janet Luhmann is a NASA Participating Scientist for the Venus Express Mission. She is also the Co-Chair of the Venus Exploration Analysis Group (VEXAG) for NASA. She has been awarded the John Adam Fleming Medal by the American Geophysical Union in 2007.

An AGU member since 1975. Research Geophysicist, Space Science Laboratory, University of California Berkeley. Major areas of interest include space plasma physics and aeronomy; scientific research history includes diffusion of cosmic rays, mesosphere-thermosphere coupling, magnetosheaths, solar wind interactions, interplanetary magnetic fields, and planetary ionospheres. B.S., 1968, Carnegie-Mellon University; M.S., 1971, Ph.D., 1974, University of Maryland. Member, technical staff, Aerospace Corporation, 1974-1980; at IGPP/UCLA since 1980. Past member of the NAS/NRC Committee on Solar Terrestrial Research (CSTR), chair of Committee on Solar Space Physics (CSSP), member of the NASA Mars Science Working Group. Coinvestigator on the International Solar Terrestrial Program Polar Spacecraft and a member of the Cassini Neutral and Ion Mass Spectrometer Team. Member AAS/DPS; Phi Kappa Phi. Author of over 170 publications. Previous AGU service as member, Geophysical Monograph Board; Publications Committee; External Awards Committee; search committee for editors of Journal of Geophysical Research and Reviews of Geophysics, associate editor of both Geophysical Research Letters and Journal of Geophysical Research, coconvener of a Chapman conference and editor of the resulting Geophysical Monograph, section president for Space Physics and Aeronomy. Current Senior Editor of JGR-Space Physics.

Ann Carine Vandaele

Vandaele bio

Dr. Ann Carine Vandaele is a Co-Investigator on the Solar Occultation Infrared Radiometer on Venus Express, and one of the two women working in Belgium on Venus Express.

Vandaele:"I decided very early that my life would have to deal with environmental issues. In fact when I was very young I wanted to know and understand everything. I soon realized that this would never be possible. But, at least, I wanted to understand the world in which I lived. So I decided to learn physics, which could answer many questions. At University I signed up for engineering with a specialization in physics. In my last year, I had to write an essay and I knew it would have to be related to the Earth's atmosphere. Have you ever looked at our skies? Some can be very astonishing! But why and how? My Master's Degree work was devoted to the building of a new instrument to measure urban pollution. After my studies, I joined the Belgian Space Aeronomy Institute, which is involved in various studies that are all related to the atmospheres of Earth and of other planets. I went to England, to Iceland, and to Norway to share my views and to build up experience. New skies! New lights!"

"Since then I have left the 'Earth's surface' and have been involved in satellite observation projects. Today satellites are a very valuable source of information about our atmosphere. They can show us the beauty of our planet, and they can also draw our attention to the problems and threats that we will likely have to face in the near future.";

"However, my career changed horizons once more: I have lately been involved in the Venus Express mission for the European Space Agency. Since then I have been looking at sunsets and sunrises of the Sun; no longer around Earth but Venus, trying to uncover the mysteries of this strange world hidden below the clouds!"

Valerie Wilquet

Valerie Wilquet

Dr. Wilquet took an unusual route to explore Venus. Trained as a biochemist and laboratory work, she switched to data analysis.

Wilquet: "I first studied chemistry at the Free University of Brussels (ULB) in Belgium. After my graduation in 1994, I decided to fulfil my degree with a Ph.D in Biochemistry, at the Laboratory of Microbiology (ULB). My topic of research was the biochemical study of proteins coming from extremophilic micro-organisms, i.e. bacteria living in extreme environments such as Antarctica or volcanic wells in the deep ocean."

"In the past years, I worked at the University of Leuven (Belgium) in the Department of Human Genetics, contributing to two projects aimed at studying the cellular mechanisms underlying genetic disorders: first identifying genes involved in the onset of autism and then developping a new assay system for a protein involved in the Alzheimer's disease."

"After those years of experimental work in laboratories, producing data, I wanted to change to data processing and analysis. In the meantime I was concerned about environmental issues, so I was very excited when I got the opportunity to join the SOIR scientific team at the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy to work on data coming from Venus Express (ESA). I was entering the field of atmospheric sciences that was a completely new area for me! The purpose of the SOIR instrument, an infrared spectrometer, is the determination of the chemical composition of the mesosphere of Venus and the detection of minor components in that part of the atmosphere, ranging from 65 km to 120 km height. Venus' atmosphere presents a strong greenhouse effect that warms the ground level up to 720 K. The scientific community wonders what triggered such a process and will try to link it with the global warming that is now taking place on Earth."

Last Update: June 2, 2011