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James Head

James Head

+1 401 863 2526
Lincoln Field Building, Room 104


Downloadable CV

James Head

Louis and Elizabeth Schreck Distinguished Professor of Geological Sciences


James W. Head III is the Louis and Elizabeth Scherck Distinguished Professor of Geological Sciences (Research) in the Department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences at Brown. He focuses on cooperation in national and international exploration of the Earth and planets. He is presently an Investigator on NASA’s US Lunar Laser Altimeter (LOLA) on Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission and ESA’s Mars Express mission (HRSC). He has advised over 30 PhD students, two of them who became NASA Chief Scientist. He has published over 750 papers and is currently engaged in close cooperation with scientific colleagues in the Peoples Republic of China who are working on China’s Lunar and Deep Space Exploration Program, and is an investigator on Russia’s lunar exploration program (Luna 25). He was recently awarded the Geological Society of America Penrose Medal, and the NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute Shoemaker Distinguished Lunar Scientist Medal. He is a Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.


Jim Head’s research is focused on the study of geological processes (volcanism, tectonism, impact cratering and glaciation) that form and modify the surfaces, crusts and lithospheres of planets. He combines studies of how these processes vary with time, and how they interact to produce the historical geological record preserved on the planets. His research includes field studies on active volcanoes in Hawaii and at Mt. St. Helens, volcanic deposits on the Earth’s seafloor with three deep-sea submersible dives, and in cold-climate environments with five field seasons in the Antarctic Dry Valleys, as well as one in the Arctic. He is currently working with astronomer colleagues to assess the nature of planets around other stars in relation to planets in our Solar System. His global interests in Solar System exploration have engaged him in international space cooperation efforts: he has served as a delegate on the US/USSR Joint Working Group on Solar System Exploration, the NASA delegation to the Interagency Consultative Group, and on the NASA Advisory Council Task Force on International Relations.


Qiao, L., J. W. Head III, Z. Ling, L. Wilson, L. Xiao, J. D. Dufek, and J. Yan (2019), Geological characterization of the Ina shield volcano summit pit crater on the Moon: Evidence for extrusion of waning-stage lava lake magmatic foams and anomalously young crater retention ages, J. Geophys. Res., 124, 1100-1140, doi: 10.1029/2018JE005841. Ramsley, K., and J. W. Head III (2019), Origin of Phobos grooves: Testing the Stickney crater ejecta model, Planetary and Space Science, 165, 137-147, doi: 10.1016/j.pss.2018.11.004.

Deutsch, A. N., J. W. Head III, and G. A. Neumann (2019), Age constraints of Mercury's polar deposits suggest recent delivery of ice, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 520, 26-33, doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2019.05.027.

Palumbo, A. M., and J. W. Head III (2019), Oceans on Mars: The possibility of a Noachian groundwater-fed ocean in a sub-freezing martian climate, Icarus, 331, 209-225, doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2019.04.022. Palumbo, A. M., J. W. Head III, and R. D. Wordsworth (2018), Late Noachian Icy Highlands climate model: Exploring the possibility of transient melting and fluvial/lacustrine activity through peak annual and seasonal temperatures, Icarus, 300, 261-286, doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2017.09.007.

Qian, Y. Q., L. Xiao, S. Y. Zhao, J. N. Zhao, J. Huang, J. Flahaut, M. Martinot, J. W. Head III, H. Hiesinger, and G. X. Wang (2018), Geology and scientific significane of the Rümker region in northern Oceanus Procellarum: China's Chang'E-5 landing region, J. Geophys. Res., 123, 1407-1430, doi: 10.1029/2018JE005595.

Head III, J. W., and L. Wilson (2017), Generation, ascent and eruption of magma on the Moon: New insights into source depths, magma supply, intrusions and effusive/explosive eruptions (part 2: observations), Icarus, 283, 176-223, doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2016.05.031.

Talks & Media

Invited Talk:
Blue Sky: Agility and the Possible in a Warmer World Institute at Brown for Environment and Society
“Human Exploration’s Next Destinations: A Planetary Geoscientist’s Perspective on Global Change”

Invited Plenary Talk:
234th American Astronomical Society St. Louis, MO April 9-13, 2019
“The Apollo Lunar Exploration Program: Scientific Impact and the Road Ahead”

Invited Talks:
Fourth International Conference on Lunar and Deep Space Exploration Zhuhai, China, July 22-24, 2019
1) “The Geological Evolution of the Moon: Major Outstanding Questions and Future International Exploration Goals”
2) “The Climate History of Mars: Challenges for Future International Exploration

Invited Talk: Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA)
Beijing, China, July 31, 2109
“The Apollo Lunar Exploration Program: Lessons for International Cooperation”

Invited Plenary Talk:
GeoMünster-2019 “Earth: Past, Present and Future”
Deutsche Geologische Gesellschaft – Geologische Vereinigung (DGGV – The German Geological Society) and the Deutsche Mineralogische Gesellschaft (DMG – The German Mineralogical Society)
Joint Meeting Münster, Germany, October 22-25, 2019
“50 Years Since Apollo: The Earth in the Context of Solar System Exploration”

Invited Opening Plenary Talk:
10th Moscow Solar System Symposium:
Institute for Space Research (IKI)
Russian Academy of Sciences Moscow, Russia, October 7-11, 2019
“The Apollo Lunar Exploration Program: Scientific Legacy and the Road Ahead”