School of Physics Colloquium

Stefanie Milam (NASA)

Speaker: Stefanie Milam (NASA)

Host: Prof. Colin Parker

Title: Beyond the Images: Astrochemistry with the James Webb Space Telescope


In late 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was launched into space on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana. JWST has unprecedented sensitivity and angular resolution and is now the premier space-based facility for near- and mid-infrared (0.6-28.5 μm) astronomy. The 6.5-meter telescope is equipped with four state-of-the-art instruments which include imaging, spectroscopy, and coronagraphy modes. These instruments are already returning amazing spectra and images of distant galaxies, star-forming regions, and planets in and out of the solar system. JWST's spectroscopic capabilities have already provided details of the composition of star forming regions, evolved stars, and planetary atmospheres that have not been measured previously. The complementary nature of this observatory with other high resolution imaging facilities (e.g., ALMA) will help us further our understanding of molecular heritage throughout the stellar lifecycle. We are entering the next era of Astrochemistry with JWST as we start to disentangle the complex molecular processes in the solar system, throughout the galaxy, and beyond. This presentation will highlight the some of the first Astrochemistry results with JWST and the capabilities it has to offer for this field of study.


Dr. Milam works in the Astrochemistry Laboratory at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. She is an expert in rotational spectroscopy, observations, and laboratory modeling of astrochemistry and molecular astrophysics of the interstellar medium, evolved stars, star formation regions, and comets. Her observational focus is on the compositional studies of primitive bodies, namely comets and interstellar objects, and uses ground- and space-based facilities to understand their connection to the formation and evolution of planetary systems. She also has a laboratory dedicated to simulate interstellar/cometary/planetary ices and detect trace species employing the same techniques used for remote observations to help constrain the chemical complexity of the ices, the amount of processing that occurs, and interpret past and present data from missions that observe ice features.  Dr. Milam has been working on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) as Deputy Project Scientist for Planetary Science since 2014. Under this role she has helped enable observations within our own solar system from Near-Earth Asteroids to the farthest reaches of the Kuiper belt and even the brightest objects in the infrared sky (e.g. Mars). She has also led the study team for solar system science for WFIRST. In 2021, she was honored with asteroid 40706 (1999 RO240) was renamed to 40706 Milam. She received the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 2022 for her work on enabling Solar System Science with JWST.

Event Details


  • Date: 
    Monday, November 6, 2023 - 3:30pm to 4:30pm

Marcus Nanotechnology Bldg. Room: 1116-1118