Although the M-CLASS Laboratory has only been established since 2018, collaborations between the University of Maryland, NASA GSFC, the French CosmOrbitrap Consortium, Thermo Scientific, and other strategic partners have been in place for many years.


Our Mission

To advance our understanding of the Solar System through the development of cutting-edge analytical techniques, the maturation of pioneering new technologies, and the definition of innovative planetary mission concepts. 

Dr. Ricardo Arevalo Jr. is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geology at UMD, and Director of the M-CLASS Laboratory. He has expertise in the advancement of in situ methods of chemical analysis, particularly: high-resolution magnetic sector, Orbitrap, time-of-flight, and linear ion trap mass spectrometry; laser ablation and desorption sample processing; and, electron probe microanalysis (EPMA) of terrestrial and extraterrestrial materials (including planetary analog samples). His scientific research focuses on establishing comprehensive models of the chemical compositions of planetary interiors, and characterizing the biosignature preservation potential of different mineral phases. He has also served as a member of the SAM Science Team and the Product Development Lead (PDL) for the mass spectrometer subsystem of the MOMA instrument on the ExoMars rover.

William B. Brinckerhoff is a Senior Research Scientist and Lab Chief of the Planetary Environments Lab at NASA GSFC. He has served as PI, deputy PI, or Co-I for multiple NASA instrument development programs concerning mass spectrometers and sample handling systems for future missions to planetary bodies. He currently serves as: Project Scientist for the MOMA flight instrument on the 2020 ExoMars mission; Co-I for the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) investigation on the Curiosity rover; and, PI for the MatISSE-funded Linear Ion Trap Mass Spectrometer (LITMS) and the COLDTech-sponsored maturation of EMILI (Europan Molecular Indicators of Life Investigation).

Paul Mahaffy is the Director of the Solar System Exploration Division at NASA GSFC. His main research interests are: i) planetary science, especially the chemical and isotopic composition of planetary atmospheres; (2) advanced instrument development for organic and light isotope analysis; and, (3) analog studies for martian and cometary materials, including laboratory and field measurements . He is the PI of the SAM Instrument Suite on the Curiosity Rover currently operating on the surface of Mars. He is also PI of the NGIMS instrument onboard the MAVEN spacecraft, and NMS on the LADEE mission that recently completed a mission in lunar orbit exploring the tenuous lunar exosphere.

Ben Farcy, M.Sc., is a graduate student in the Department of Geology at UMD. His research centers on understanding the distribution of heat-producing elements (U, K, Th) throughout the terrestrial planets in the solar system, including the Earth and Moon. He is also supporting the development of instrumentation that will enable quantitative measurements of trace elements in planetary surface materials in situ, such as the miniaturization of an ICPMS for spaceflight applications. Prior to joining the Department, he worked at NASA GSFC designing mass spectrometer front end subsystems and demonstrating innovative analytical techniques for measuring trace elements with high precision.

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Ziqin "Grace" Ni

Ziqin “Grace” Ni is an incoming graduate student in the Department of Geology at UMD. She has experience in the application of in situ methods of chemical analysis, including ICPMS, EPMA, XRD, and XRF. Her Ph.D. Program, which revolves around the development and application of mass spectrometry techniques for the investigation of differentiated planetary bodies, will blend laboratory analyses collected on gold standard commercial instruments with measurements enabled by next generation mass analyzers (e.g., AROMA). She is particularly interested in understanding the chemical gradient of the Solar System, and identifying sources of organic matter (and sites of organic synthesis) on other worlds.


Team Members from the Department of Geology at the University of Maryland:


Team Members from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and its affiliated institutions:


Team Members from the French CosmOrbitrap Consortium, including key personnel from the LPC2E, LATMOS, LISA, IPAG, and CSNSM laboratories: 


Other Core Team Members: