Graduate Student, Earth & Space Sciences

AB Degree Track
Dual-Title PhD

Faculty Advisor
Michelle Koutnik

Life in Extreme Environments
Habitability & Life In the Solar System: Mars
Space Exploration



An Li

An (pronounced “Ann”) explores how water in all its forms has sculpted and altered the surface of Mars. She is especially interested in the past habitability of Mars and using remote sensing, in situ rover observations, and terrestrial analogs to study our neighboring planet. An investigates how glaciers shaped the mid-latitudes of Mars with Michelle Koutnik. She is also part of the PIXL instrument team of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover with Tim Elam. As a member of the PIXL team, An works to understand what the chemistry of the rocks in Jezero Crater tells us about past water conditions.

Growing up at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado instilled a deep appreciation and curiosity for understanding the natural world in An. This translated to not only her graduating with majors in Astrophysics and Geophysical Sciences with Honors from the University of Chicago in 2021, but also to her current graduate work in the Dual-Title PhD Program in Earth and Space Sciences with Astrobiology. Through the support of her mentors, she has begun to picture herself in planetary sciences in spite of the fact that very few senior planetary scientists look like her. As a result, An is very involved with paving the path forward for future generations of scientists from all backgrounds through both leading mentorship programs and mentoring younger students one-on-one.

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