Jessica Andrea Watkins
May 14, 1988
Gaithersburg, Maryland, U.S.
|Alma mater||Stanford University (BS)|
University of California, Los Angeles (MS, PhD)
|Selection||NASA Group 22|
|Missions||SpaceX Crew-4 (Expedition 67/68)|
|Thesis||Tectonic and Aqueous Processes in the Formation of Mass-wasting Features on Mars and Earth (2015)|
|Doctoral advisor||An Yin|
Jessica Watkins was born on May 14, 1988 in Gaithersburg, Maryland to Michael and Carolyn Watkins. Her family moved to Lafayette, Colorado, where she graduated from Fairview High School. She earned a bachelor's degree in geological and environmental sciences at Stanford University, and was a member of the rugby team. After Stanford, Watkins earned a Ph.D. in geology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her graduate research, under the supervision of Professor An Yin, focused on emplacement mechanisms for landslides on Mars and Earth, including the effect of water activity. Prior to her selection as an astronaut candidate, Watkins was a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology, where she was also an assistant coach to the women's basketball team.
Watkins began playing rugby during her freshman year at Stanford and remained on the team for four years. During her sophomore year, she was a member of the Division I national champion team. She is a former American women's national team rugby player for the sevens, and played for the USA Eagles in its 3rd-place finish at the 2009 Rugby World Cup Sevens. During the World Cup she was the leading try scorer for the US team.
As an undergraduate, Watkins worked at the Ames Research Center to support the Mars Phoenix lander and prototype Mars drill testing. She was also a chief geologist for the NASA Spaceward Bound Crew 86 at the Mars Desert Research Station. As a graduate student, she worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the NEOWISE project to survey near-Earth asteroids, and she is a collaborator on the Mars rover Curiosity. She has served as a planner for the Mars 2020 rover and a Mars sample-return mission, and was a science team member for a Desert Research and Technology Studies analog mission. As a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech, and as a collaborator on the Mars Science Laboratory Science Team, she participated in daily planning of the Mars rover activities and uses its image data combined with orbital data to investigate the stratigraphy, geology, and geomorphology of Mars.
In June 2017, Watkins was selected as a member of NASA Astronaut Group 22 and began her two-year training in August. In December 2020, she was selected to be a part of the Artemis Team to return humans to the Moon. In November 2021, she became the 4th astronaut of Group 22 to be assigned a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) after being chosen as the final member of SpaceX Crew-4, scheduled to launch in April 2022.
Watkins' parents live in Lafayette, Colorado. Her hobbies include soccer, rock climbing, skiing, and creative writing.
During her academic career, Watkins received numerous awards, including a Caltech Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences Chair's Postdoctoral Fellowship, a California Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate Postdoctoral Fellowship, the UCLA Department of Earth and Space Sciences Harold and Mayla Sullwold Scholarship for Academic Excellence and Outstanding Original Research, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in Geosciences, the Geological Society of America Diversity in the Geosciences Minority Research Grant Award, the UCLA Chancellor's Prize, and a California Space Grant Consortium Fellowship. While working for NASA, she was part of the Mars Science Laboratory Prime Mission Science and Operations Team that received a NASA Group Achievement Award, and she was offered a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship in Planetary Science. She was an All-American rugby player from 2008–2010.