Dr. John Roma (J.R.) Skok
Exploring this world and the next!
I am a planetary scientist working as a Research Scientist at the SETI Institute. I have been involved in Martian research since 2000 and active exploration since 2003. During my undergraduate years at Cornell University, I worked as a member of the Cornell Calibration Crew for the PANCAM instrument on the Mars Exploration Rovers. While I spent most of my research time with the Astronomy Department, I graduated with a degree in Geological Sciences from the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences in the College of Engineering in 2007.
My graduate work began at Brown University in 2007, working with Professor John Mustard on the CRISM instrument aboard the MRO spacecraft. My focus was on the evolution of volcanic terrains and exploration of the Pre-Noachian crustal formation. Highlights also include the discovery of a hydrothermal system in the Nili Patera caldera of Syrtis Major. I have also used CRISM and other imaging data to develop an understanding of proposed landing sites for the MSL rover. In addition to my work on Mars. I had the opportunity to conduct research at several Mars analog locations, including the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica and the Rio Tinto acid mine drainage site in Spain.
My work with the SETI Institute has focused on developing missions for the future of Mars Exploration. I have been deeply involved with selecting the landing site for the Mars 2020 Rover and conducting analog mission tests with NASA Ames including the MVP mission to prepare to map water on the Moon and the BRAILLE mission to prepare to explore Martian Lava Tubes.
I am the PI of the Mars Mission concept called SPRING (Surface Probe Rover Investigating New Ground). SPRING is designed around bringing a scanning electron microscope to the surface of Mars to search for astrobiology and map out resources. This mission concept was developed during a NASA funded project I lead from 2015-2019 to understand how hot spring deposits in Iceland and preserve evidence of life as a proxy to Mars.
In 2018, I partnered with the Edtech startup AstroReality. AstroReality is creating the best planetary models and related products on the market and pairing them with augmented reality. I currently work with the company as their Cheif Science Officer.
Besides my scientific research, I have been active in science outreach. I volunteered at Friday night observing sessions at the Kopernik Observatory in Vestal, NY from 1999-2004, during which I also taught science summer camps for grades 1-12. At Cornell, I organized viewing and lectures at Fuertes Observatory and participated in outreach with the Astronomy Department.
My passion for geology extends to my personal life, where I spend any spare time exploring mountains and caves. I have caved extensively in the Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia (TAG) region and have mapped on expeditions in Virginia, Hawaii and international expeditions to Mexico and China. I am currently working on exploring the Mountains of California and the West.