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UW-Eau Claire grad works on Mars rover mission

October 1, 2012
UW-Eau Claire alumna Jill Krezoski is part of a large team of operations personnel and scientists running cameras on the Curiosity rover that is part of NASA's current Mars Science Laboratory mission.
EAU CLAIRE — University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire graduate Jill Krezoski is part of a team running cameras on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, which landed on Mars in early August. The rover, sent to Mars as part of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, carries the biggest, most advanced suite of instruments for scientific studies ever sent to the surface of the red planet. The project's mission is to assess whether Mars has ever had or still has environmental conditions favorable to microbial life.

The following is a Q&A between UW-Eau Claire's News Bureau and Krezoski, a native of Glendale, who graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 2006 with degrees in geology and history:

NB: Describe the work you are doing in your position at Malin Space Science Systems related to the Mars Curiosity rover mission. How long have you been in the position?
JK: I am a missions operations specialist at Malin Space Science Systems. We are working as NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory contractors on the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity) mission. My company is running four cameras on Curiosity: MAHLI (Mars Hand Lens Imager), MARDI (Mars Descent Imager) and two Mastcam cameras (Left M34 and Right M100). My job is to command (from Earth) pictures that the rover will be taking on Mars! I have been with the company since February 2012 and work with a large team of operations personnel and scientists daily.

NB: What do you enjoy most about your involvement with the project?
JK: I learn something new every day! Working on a Mars rover project is challenging and exciting — there is never a dull moment. I am able to converse with talented and smart engineers and earth scientists who all enjoy their work.

NB: How did your education and career path prepare you for this current position?
JK: I graduated from UW-Eau Claire with a dual major in history and geology. I decided to continue pursuing my earth sciences career and went to graduate school at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, where I received my master of science degree in earth sciences focusing on sedimentology. After graduating from McMaster, I moved to Pittsburgh, Pa., where I worked as an assistant project geologist for a geotechnical firm. My work there sent me to worksites in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and the Netherlands. I moved to San Diego in November 2011 and secured a position at MSSS. My training as an earth scientist, and my previous school and field experiences allow me to understand the scientific goals of the project and to be able to converse with the more than 400 other scientists on the team.

NB: What was the nature of the work you did internationally?
JK: My work in Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands was on geotechnical projects assessing foundation properties for large-scale energy facilities.

NB: Did you study or do research abroad when you were a student at UW-Eau Claire? If so, what impact did your undergraduate international experience have on you?
JK: I attended the Wisconsin in Scotland study abroad program in the spring of 2003. The experience had a great impact on my views of the world and sparked my interest in wanting to work and live abroad. Living in another country really helped me expand my feelings of independence and my worldview. It was very interesting to see how the world viewed me as an American as well, since I was abroad when the United States declared war in Iraq after the Sept. 11 bombings. During the study abroad experience, I was able to attend classes, allowing me to stay on track academically by getting general education course requirements out of the way, but I was also able to travel on weekends and holidays. I made lifelong friends during my tenure in Scotland and also have some really great memories. I would absolutely recommend studying abroad to anyone who has the opportunity — and luckily UW-Eau Claire has some great opportunities in some world-class locations.

NB: What was the personal and professional impact of your UW-Eau Claire undergraduate education?
JK: UW-Eau Claire is a great liberal arts school that provides a solid, well-rounded education to its students. Through my course work at UW-Eau Claire, including great writing classes and science courses, I was able to hone my ability to critically think and communicate. This is especially evident when I write professional technical documents, work as part of a team or by myself, and communicate with co-workers and clients. Regarding personal development, I was able to participate in honor societies, swim my freshman year for the UW-Eau Claire swim team, participate in field experiences, study abroad and participate in community activities. I built lifelong friendships, and I even trained for a marathon in the rolling hills outside of the city!

NB: What UW-Eau Claire experiences stand out most for you?
JK: As a student geologist, I participated in several field trips at world-class field sites. The camaraderie that I developed with my fellow students and professors, as well as real-world geological experience, really set me up for success as a geologist out of school. Having such a strong basis in the field — which involved a large amount of critical thinking on site — was extremely advantageous for my advanced degree and work experiences. I know this is true in many of UW-Eau Claire's majors.

NB: Any advice for current UW-Eau Claire students as they pursue their undergraduate degrees?
JK: Enjoy your time! Eau Claire is a beautiful city that supports the university; make sure to take time to support the city. Be sure to volunteer in the community, patronize local businesses and enjoy the beautiful north-woods scenery! The university also provides great resources to undergraduates like clubs, career services and sports. Be sure to take full advantage of all the community and the university have to offer, and also remember to give back with your time and energy! This allows you to create great friendships, as well as establishes references and resources that can help you in the future.



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