Sarah Milkovich '96

photo of Sarah Milkovich
“A natural interest in science surrounded me growing up.”
Stargazing: A Family Pastime

Sarah watched the sky avidly from her home in Ithaca, NY, and on vacations.

Meteor Shower
“The sky was amazing. There was always a meteor shower in August around my birthday.”
“On the TV show NOVA, I would see the team of scientists that operated spacecraft and I wanted to do those same things.”
Rocks on the Go

Family car trips included frequent stops to study natural formations, using the Roadside Guide to Geology.

Cover of Roadside Geology
“We’d talk about how the rocks are telling you a story: a mystery, a puzzle with half the pieces missing, and it’s in a different language.”
Bancroft 1995
“Exeter taught me how to buckle down and get work done, and to have enough self-confidence to speak up and defend my ideas in class.”
Sarah Yearbook Page
“Along the way, I discovered that I had ideas, and they were good ones.”
First NASA Liftoff

Internships with the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission at Cornell provided hands-on experience and a front-row seat to a liftoff.

NEAR Launch
“When you put astronomy and geology together, you get the planets and planetary geology. I think that’s where my interest in planets comes from.”
Exeter Graduation Milkovich
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

After a B.A. at Caltech and a Ph.D. in planetary geology from Brown, Sarah has been at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab ever since.

NASA logo
“I started graduate school thinking, ‘I’m interested in any kind of planets, as long as they have solid surfaces.’ It turned into Mars.”
Mars
The Red Planet

At JPL, Sarah has worked on the Mars Phoenix landing craft, Cassini, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and two rovers: Curiosity and the current Mars 2020.

Carnegie Hall

Mars Phoenix, her first big project, landed the same weekend Sarah played trombone with the JPL/Occidental orchestra in New York.

Sarah doing an interview on CBS News
“Our culture likes to portray a line between science, math, engineering and art. To be a good scientist, you need creativity. They all work together.”
Curiosity Rover
Her First Rover: Curiosity

The investigation scientist for high-resolution imaging, Sarah helps Curiosity set new standards for planetary images.

Bridging the Gap on Mars 2020

Sarah presents the science requirements to engineers, ensuring they build solutions that meet the research needs.

“Once Mars 2020 is done – if another project came along and NASA said, ‘We’re trying to land a boat on Titan,’ I’d say, ‘That’s awesome, I’m in!’”

Sharing this planet with her husband and son, Sarah is still looking skyward, part of a global team making progress toward human life on Mars.

Sarah Milkovich Family