It is a great pleasure to introduce Arya Udry, the 2021 Niggli medalist, who left Switzerland more than 10 years ago, to become a Mars Scientist. The Niggli medal awarded to Arya Udry is a reconnaissance of her work and professional career and reflects the excellence she has achieved in unraveling igneous processes on rocky planets, in particular on Mars. Probably inspired by the Star-Mars stories, she was not afraid to invest and work hard to achieve her preferred subject—Planet Mars. There are only a little more than 150 of known meteorite samples from Mars to date, and she has contributed significant papers on the petrology and geochemistry on Martian meteorites.
Arya did her undergraduate and Master studies at the University of Lausanne, focusing on her 2nd passion, namely rocks with beautiful garnet. She worked with me on the petrology and geochronology of Archean Gneisses in the Lewisian in Northern Scotland. But this was a petrological excuse, so to speak, to be prepared for her 1st passion and dream, to work on Martian meteorites. Her career path is incredibly fast. After her ELSTE Masters in 2010, she was accepted for a PhD at Knoxville (TN) in the US under the supervision of Hap McSween, on ‘exploring Martian magmas from the mantle to the regolith’. She finished her PhD in 2014 and was directly hired as an assistant professor at the age of 26! In retrospect, no wonder that during field work some 6 years earlier, she was not allowed to drink a beer with me in a pub in Scotland!
She built a planetary petrology lab and research group there and became tenured professor in 2020. Since 2020, she is a member of the Mars 2020 (Perseverance Rover) Team. The readiness to combine ‘remote geochemistry’ with established petrological methods to study the geology of the red planet illustrates a real strength of Arya’s scientific work. In just a few short years, Arya Udry has become one of the most influential investigators of Martian meteorites. To cite a statement from the support letters: ‘Her research exemplifies the excellence that is recognized by the Niggli Medal’. Rather remarkably, she and collaborators wrote a review on Martian meteorites in 2020 that clearly laid out her visions for the future science of this fascinating planet. Her academic career will continue in the US and she plays a vital role in planning and working on sample return missions from Mars.
On behalf of the scientists that supported the nomination, I would like to congratulate Arya Udry to her achievements and the Paul Niggli medal, and to her flagship role as a Swiss ambassador of meteorite petrology science, and wish her all the best for her future career.
Othmar Müntener (University of Lausanne)