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Bonnie Buratti
Picture of Bonnie Buratti
Bonnie Buratti
Senior Research Scientist
Bonnie is an expert in the icy moons of the outer planets such as Saturn's Enceladus (on the computer screen).

Where are you from?
Bethlehem, Pa.

Describe the first time you made a personal connection with outer space.
When I was a little girl Sputnik was launched, and I was instantly drawn into the whole miracle of spaceflight and exploring the cosmos.

"Believe in yourself
and never give up."
Bonnie Buratti
How did you end up working in the space program?
Since my real love has always been science and engineering, I got my undergraduate degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and enjoyed moving from a country setting in Pennsylvania to an urban environment. I then went to graduate school at Cornell University and earned degrees in astronomy and space science. I came to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) right out of graduate school, where I came to work on the Voyager mission (Voyager 1 and Voyager 2).

The twin spacecraft were launched in the late 1970s, and throughout the 1980s, made several encounters with Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, as well as encounters with many satellites of these planets. I became very interested in studying these satellites. At that time, the Cassini spacecraft was in the early stages of being built. I was involved with helping the engineers build one of the infrared cameras for Cassini. Now, I analyze data from Cassini as well as from other spacecraft -- looking at volcanoes on Io and geysers on Enceladus. It is fascinating to me.

Who inspired you?
My eighth grade algebra teacher (Mr. Resnick), and my dad (an engineer for Bethlehem Steel Co.). I also read a lot.

What is a Senior Research Scientist?
I am a research scientist, and my main interest is studying the icy moons of Saturn and other planets. I think they are fascinating because some of them are volcanically active. Some of them are heavily cratered. Some of them are covered in snow and ice. I analyze data from the Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn since 2004.

Tell us about a favorite moment so far in your career?
I was working with my student, Lane Johnson at Pomona College, and we found a fresh crater on the Moon that was possibly observed being formed by an amateur astronomer almost 50 years earlier. He had observed a bright flash on the Moon.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take the same career path as you?
The most important thing about being a scientist is that you are always on the forefront of knowledge, discovering new things. When you work in space science and analyze data coming from a spacecraft, you can learn and experience things that have never been seen before. As a student it is important to do well in math and science, but it is also important to do well in English, because a lot of what you do is write and communicate with other scientists. It's important to learn how to play with others, because as scientists we are always working as part of a team, so it's important that you know how to interact well with other people.

What do you do for fun?
Read, sing, garden, cook, hike, and knit.

If you were talking to a student interested in science and math or engineering, what advice would you give them?
Believe in yourself and never give up.


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Last Updated: 3 January 2013


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Last Updated: 3 Jan 2013