Tell us about your work/research. What kinds of things do you do?
I create technologies that harness the full potential of AI, robotics, and perception to create groundbreaking ways to measure this and other worlds. Robots, data, and context working in synergy to capture and analyze massive amounts of data. And generate deeper insights faster and more affordably than ever before to help electrify the economy and reverse the carbon equation. To do this, I tap into the knowledge we’ve gained from space exploration. Space exploration has driven and funded cutting-edge sensing technology, crucial for rapid, accurate data collection. Armed with these advanced sensors, our robotic missions tirelessly gather invaluable information from other planets. I'm now bringing those advancements back to Earth to do things like transforming mineral exploration on land and at sea to deliver electrification metals faster while safeguarding ecosystems; eliminating oil and gas production emissions to reduce carbon intensity, boosting sustainable farming to promote soil health and sequester carbon, and utilizing lunar resources to drive technological innovation, minimize rocket launches and emissions from Earth, and beam solar energy back home.
What sparked your initial interest in your career?
I've always wanted to stay technologically and scientifically ahead of the pack. This curiosity naturally led me to a career in space sciences. As a researcher, I honed my expertise in sensing and technology materials. I invented new gizmos, tested new ideas, and journeyed to the most remote parts of the world. However, not unexpectedly, year after year, project after project, I realized the long grant cycles and the slow pace of research in government agencies were not letting me progress at the speed I wanted. I knew there was more I could contribute, so I founded a startup to work smarter, faster, and more creatively. Less than five years later, I am proud to say that we are building a company that creates breakthrough technologies while gleaning inspiration from our inherent curiosity and taste for adventure.
Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?
Since I can remember, my professors, mentors, and advisors have consistently sent me back to the drawing board to think hard about what I want to do. I'm lucky they selflessly commit to helping me apply my creativity to figuring it all out.
What element of your work/study do you think is the most fascinating?
I'm fascinated by how my work in the past twenty years to explore Mars and the Moon has led to new ways to study Earth's oceans faster and more affordably than ever.
What other jobs led you to your current career?
I've always liked experimenting. My favorite projects in grad school were underwater greenhouses and polymer photovoltaics. Those turned out to be twenty years ahead of their time, so while governments agonized over the merits of investing in the climate technologies that the vast majority of scientists had been demanding for decades, I turned my attention to space. I happened to be in the right place at the right time and ended up developing new ways to search for life on Mars. This was a good pivot; I toyed with new capabilities to explore other planets at several space agencies, initially as an insider to learn the inner workings of government, and later on as an external partner to contribute my work in more efficient and effective ways. I created a portfolio of concepts, technologies, and inventions to explore space better; I won grants from NASA to build them; I set up a network of government, research, and academic partners; and I placed my bet, hired my first employees, and never looked back.
What are your degrees and certifications?
PhD in Physics and Technology Materials from the University of Valladolid and the University of Oslo in 2008.
What are your hobbies?
I love competitive kayaking and canoeing. And brewing (and drinking) beer.
What advice would you give someone who wants to have a career like yours?
Focus on creative thinking. Make connections and patterns that others might miss. Come up with new ways--non-linear ways--of doing things, of exploring multiple options and possibilities. Do it with an open mind.
How did you get involved with the Ocean Exploration Trust?
I am part of a team from NOAA's Ocean Exploration Cooperative Institute testing new subsea exploration technology.