Trailblazer of the Week
1 August 2020
No one day is like any other for Jasper Miura, Lunar Trailblazer’s post-baccalaureate Science Research Assistant.
Miura’s role for the Lunar Trailblazer team is quite multifaceted, providing support on many day-to-day tasks. Some days he works with Trailblazer scientists to identify candidate targets for the mission to image, using data collected by past missions. On others, he works with engineers at JPL to develop data visualizations for Trailblazer's target acquisition over the course of the mission. Miura also manages the mission’s website and wiki and even guides a lot of the work contributed by Trailblazer’s student interns.
“Perhaps my favorite part of my job is working together with the Trailblazer interns, whether that means coding the Trailblazer website, tweeting out updates on the mission, or developing graphics to help communicate Trailblazer science,” says Miura.
He also notes that meeting Trailblazer’s science objectives and overseeing its digital outreach often requires him to employ a wide range of problem-solving abilities, from the hyper technical to highly creative. Miura readily welcomes such a dynamic position.
“I love applying my diverse skill set to solve so many unique and interesting problems!” he says. “As a recent college graduate, I'm grateful for the opportunity to build a wide variety of skills that I can apply to my future career.”
Originally from California, Miura graduated with honors from Brown University in 2019 where he majored in geochemistry. As an undergraduate, he worked as both a research and teaching assistant on several geology courses, including sedimentology and geochemistry. Miura credits his father for inspiring this trajectory toward planetary science.
“From an early age, my dad inspired in me a curiosity for the outdoors and an eye for observation,” Miura says. “As a representational plein air artist and classically trained figure painter, he encouraged me to develop an observationally-motivated understanding of the natural world.”
This parental support motivated Miura to try out for his middle school Science Olympiad team, where he was first introduced to geoscience. He reflects on how this was a truly formative experience.
“My performance in this competition nationally was extremely rewarding and validating,” recalls Miura. “I decided to continue to pursue the geosciences for my undergraduate degree at Brown University.”
While at Brown, Miura had the opportunity to work with many scientists on exciting projects, including his senior thesis growing rocks in a lab to experimentally reproduce textures found in Martian meteorites. Additional internships and research experiences drove Miura to focus on remote sensing and imaging spectroscopy.
“I was introduced to planetary remote sensing during a summer internship at the SETI Institute, which motivated me to seek out an opportunity to further explore this area of science post-graduation,” says Miura. “Professor Bethany Ehlmann graciously offered me the opportunity to work with her after my graduation, providing the resources and support to explore several different exciting projects, including meteorites spectroscopy research and Lunar Trailblazer!”
Upon his return to the west coast, Miura carried more than his geoscience expertise in tow.
“I spend a lot of my non-working hours playing Japanese drums called taiko,” says Miura. “After playing taiko for four years with Gendo Taiko in Providence, I have continued to play taiko here in Pasadena with Makoto Taiko as part of their community performing group. Los Angeles is really an exciting place to be engaged in the taiko community, providing me the opportunity to learn from some great taiko players, including a Grammy-nominated taiko professional who is helping me develop my songwriting skills! Taiko has provided me an opportunity to access and understand my Japanese-American heritage, which was a link that was largely missing in my life growing up in a suburb of Sacramento.”
When back on the job, Miura recognizes Trailblazer’s challenges and prospects.
“I feel that sometimes in science, it can be difficult to understand the significance of the research,” explains Miura. “However, Trailblazer is working on very exciting and applicable science questions regarding water on the Moon, which will help inform future lunar missions and its potential as a resource.”
Miura is also impressed by how Trailblazer’s science is cutting-edge; water was only confirmed to exist on the Moon recently, the results of which will greatly inform our understanding of how water cycles work on airless bodies.
“It's honestly pretty crazy that I am able to participate in such an exciting project,” says Miura. “The imposter syndrome is pretty real, but I am extremely grateful that I have the chance to be a part of space exploration history!”
Jasper Miura is a post-baccalaureate Science Research Assistant and our Trailblazer of the Week! You can follow him on Twitter.
Trailblazer of the Week is an ongoing series showcasing the diversity of experience and expertise that supports the collective determination of the Lunar Trailblazer mission.
By Emily Felder
Emily Felder is a Pasadena City College student and Caltech intern working on science communication for the Lunar Trailblazer mission.