Charlene (Charlie) Detelich

Astronomy & Space Sciences


I am a first-year Cornell Astronomy Ph.D. student interested in the geology of icy satellites, particularly Europa. I investigate icy satellites using a combination of mapping, modeling, statistical analysis, and analog experiments to better understand the surface processes and geophysics of these enigmatic worlds. 

Before coming to Cornell, I earned my B.S. in geology from North Carolina State University and two minors in meteorology and graphic communications. While at NC State, I researched the origin of the equatorial ridge of Saturn’s moon Iapetus through crater-size frequency distributions and geomorphic analysis. As an undergraduate, I also held internships at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (APL), where I researched fluvial and aeolian erosion on Mars via geological mapping, numerical modeling of paleo-sedimentary environments (MATLAB), and terrestrial analog field work in the Ka’ū Desert, Hawai’i. I then earned my M.S. in Applied Geological Sciences at the University of Alaska Anchorage. While completing my masters I researched broad-scale tectonics on Europa and how geologic features resemble artifacts of plate tectonics via geological mapping, global tidal stress modeling, and statistical comparisons between observed fractures and modeled fractures. After my M.S., I returned to APL in Laurel, Maryland, for a year as a professional affiliate of the Europa Clipper Mission. At APL, I worked with the Europa Imaging System (EIS) team on science operation center (SOC) development, flyby planning software development, and instrument calibration. I also continued my plate tectonics research on Europa, albeit using different modeling methods and focusing on a different region of Europa than my MS research.

Beyond geology, I find it paramount to have an interdisciplinary perspective when approaching research, as it provides a broader insight when examining or responding to complex problems, which is why I am always eager to learn new disciplines. I am also passionate about scientific communication and discovering the best practices for conveying complex information in an inclusive and accessible manner. Despite my research mainly focusing on Europa, my favorite celestial body is Uranus’s moon, Miranda. Outside of academia, I gravitate towards artistic activities and am involved in photography, painting, and pottery. I also enjoy hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, listening to records, and spending time with my two cats, Bowie and Mercury.